Teaching Integrity

A few months ago my family and I went to Costco and bought our usual essentials. I remember being pleasantly surprised while leaving the checkout line and thinking that it was much cheaper than I expected. "Forget Sams Club!" I thought. We got to the exit and the worker counted the items and drew a smiley face on the receipt and gave it to Kaitlyn. Sweet. Then as we were driving home I was running the cost through my head I realized there had to have been an error at check out. I looked through the receipt and sure enough the massive package of toilet rolls was not scanned. We were already half way home and the thought of driving back to downtown Honolulu traffic to get the item scanned was unthinkable. "They made the mistake. Why should I be inconvenienced?" So we went home. Then every time I pulled out a roll of toilet paper I felt guilty. Very guilty. I couldn't help but think "How can you teach your children to be honest when you are not?" then after a while every time I walked by the closet where we kept the toilet paper, I felt like the toilet rolls were calling me names like "Liar!"

I want to teach my son and daughter to have integrity and I have to start with my own life. This incident reminded me of my own parents. My parents are hard working very honest people. They never broke any laws and on certain things had a strong set of morals, but when it came to the little things they didn't shy from taking small... shortcuts. Now maybe its a Korean parent thing. Maybe part of it is a cultural thing, I don't know. But I think in some ways it has influenced me.

The Movies

I remember when I was 9 years old or so for my brithday my parents threw me a slumber party. Now, unlike a lot of Korean parents, my mom was good at the birthday party thing. I always had a great party, complete with goody bags, pizza, cake etc. Well this year I wanted to watch a movie in the evening as part of the party. We all went to the movies and I remember we all sat down and as the movie was starting I hear SSHHKKKK. It was the sound of a soda can opening. Then again SSSHHHKK. Turns out my mom had packed a bunch of soda cans in her purse to distribute to my friends while watching a movie. She was opening the cans and systematically passing it out to my friends. My American friends, who would never dream of their parents smuggling in tooth decaying treats, illegally into a movie, took it wide eyed, and then looked at me and said, "Your mom is so cool." SHHHKKK SHHHKKK again and again. Pretty much the whole theater started looking over at us bc... movies don't sell drinks in a can. Next up my mom pulled out a bunch of Fun size chocolates, you know the kind you get when you go trick or treating. My birthday was in November so left over Halloween candy always made an appearance on my birthday. Soon enough friends were downing their coke and fun size treats like a 5th grade version of a Bacchus bash. I wanted to crawl under my seat and out of the theater. I felt any moment the movie usher would come like the wicked witch and throw this Hansel and Gretal party into the oven. I could just picture it. We get kicked out of the movies, my mom and I get arrested, soon enough everyone at school hears about my gangster-packing- coke-and-fun treats-mother. Thankfully nothing happened. My friends thought my mom was the coolest person in the world, they left high on sugar and fun. I left spent from the adrenaline rush of having my social life flash before my eyes.


I remember when I was 17 I was studying to take the drivers license test and I had to spend a good number of hours at the DMV. Now I know that going to the DMV is nobodys idea of fun but I'm not just talking about any kind of DMV, I'm talking about New Jersey DMV. The most choatic, bureaucratic, rude, inefficient, and frustrating of all government offices in the country. If you've never been to a New Jersey DMV particulary in the evenings, on days when its open past 5PM, its like walking into a scene of a post apocolypic movie. Where everyone is deserpate to get their baby over the fence so they can be safe. Switch out the babies for Drivers License Application forms and that's about right. A place where you leave with a Drivers license in exchange for a little piece of your soul.

On the internet I found a picture of the actual DMV where I took my drivers license test. Wayne NJ DMV. Need I say more?

However the NJ DMV is no match for my daechoong mother. Well, I was spending one such night there taking my drivers license test on a computer. I was on the last question and the computer froze. Frustrated after waiting for hours to take the test only to have the computer freeze, I started frantically clicking the mouse and then it unfroze, when I accidentally clicked on the wrong answer. It was one of those obviously wrong answers too like "Yes. You should pass through the red light." The blood drained from my face I knew it was the wrong answer and I failed. But then a miracle happened. The computer overheated and shut down.

My mother came up from behind me and started yelling "My daughter needs new computer now!"

The large very scary lady at the desk said, "Ma'am you need to wait! We need to see if we got the results before it shut down."

My mom was not going to take that and said, "How can she take test if computer shutdown?? Give her new computer now! Why you buy these computers??"

On the inside I was mortified. On the outside I was like.. "Yea.. What she said.."

The lady gave a long hard look at my mother and said "Take computer number 3."

People sitting in a row of chairs beside us shot us a hopeful "power to the people" look. I got to take the test again and passed! All thanks to my mother.


Do you remember the blackout of 2003? That was crazy. Not a single outlet, street light, or stove worked for hours. My dad worked in Manhattan and I assumed I would not see him home until 10 PM or so as people were talking over the George Washington Bridge to get home. So when I got home at 6:00 PM to see my dad sitting on the couch reading a newspaper I was shocked.

"Appa, how on earth did you get home so early??"

My dad's explanation sounded like an opening to a racist joke.

"I was on line for the ferry, and the line was soooo long. So me and two Chinese guys ducked under the chain and walked on the ferry."


"So... you cut in front of the whole city of manhattan to get on the ferry."

"Yea and then an old white lady started yelling at us saying Asians don't follow rules."

"Yea... you deserved that one. Way to represent."


I remember seeing my mother always take an exorbitant amount of napkins from the fast food napkin dispenser. I always felt reassured that if the world were to end during Y2K or something, we would at least have enough napkins to get us by for a long time. Now a days they have those napkin dispensers that only let you pull one at a time.

 I remember when I first saw it, I stared at it for 10 seconds thinking "My mom played a small part in why this thing was invented."

Toilet Paper

Now, aside from the above mentioned things, I think overall my parents did teach me well to follow the rules, how to be a hardworking, law abiding citizen. But now that I'm a parent and I see that Joey is now understanding almost everything and absorbing everything, so my sense of self reflection is heightened. So I called Costco asking if they can charge me for the giant package of toilet paper. The lady on the phone was like "I am so sorry but I honestly don't know what to say to you. I have never had anyone call, to ask to be charged for an item that was missed at checkout." So she gave the phone to the manager.

He said "I'll let member services take care of it. You won't get charged for it. It was our fault for not catching it when you left."

"So you're not going to charge me?? I would rather be charged for it."

"Um... no thats fine. I appreciate your honesty and we can't charge you for something when we can't verify that you left with it, so don't worry about it, it's on us."



I still feel guilty every time I use the toilet paper. But the whole experience was a good lesson. I know what I want to teach my kids. I know if I can, next time around, and any chance I can, I will try to do the right thing and teach my kids to live with integrity from napkins to toilet paper and everything in between.

Joey and Kaitlyn at Discovery Center