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Always behave as if you are being watched because there’s always someone watching

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My father once told me, “You can get any job you want if you always behave as if a potential employer is watching you when you are out in public.”

His theory was that behaving as if someone who could do you good – or harm – was watching was good training for how to behave in public situations. Later, when I was an employer, I saw some young people jumping from car hood to car hood in a shopping mall parking lot. Two weeks later, one of them applied for an internship. She had excellent recommendations from teachers, but I took a pass.

A few years before that, I was invited to present a three-session seminar to a publication design class at a local college. Each day of the presentation, the same young man came in late, plopped himself down at a desk in the front row, and was asleep in few minutes – which is how he remained. That summer, he applied for a job in my department at the newspaper. He was qualified, but you know what? Dad was right. Based on the behaviors I had observed, I hired someone else.

Warnings to young people about the dangers of unfiltered sharing and commenting on social media have previously appeared in this space. What seems like a clever retort or a nifty zinger today will remain in cyber space for all eternity and if you don’t think that matters, just look at the scandals coming out of Virginia recently. Kids who in 1980 thought they were just messing around now face public shaming and loss of their positions in government because of a thoughtless, so-called cosplay – that discerning heads would have seen then what they see now: racism, pure and simple.

We’re told that the male brain is not fully developed before age 20. There seems to be significant scientific and anecdotal evidence of that. Add alcoholic beverages and now, in more and more states, marijuana and its by-products, and you’ve provided an explosive mixture to throw on the flame of youthful indiscretion.

This doesn’t mean you have to join a cloister or never post another gem of an idea on your Instagram page. What about pictures of you having fun or doing something that seems funny? Just remember: If you have a thought that mocks, denigrates or berates another or a group of others, you may want to mull it over before you publish it. Test it: Is it racist? Is it sexist? Is it cruel and thought-less? Is it pandering to be popular? If you’re not sure, ask a mature adult you respect.

My daughter-in-law sent me a pad of stick-‘em notes with a drawing of Jesus looking pensive. The cloud over His head bears the legend: WWJD? That’s always a good test.

You may never wish to run for public office and may not care what your family, today or in the future, think about what you said or did in 2019. We used to shiver in fear when a teacher threatened to put something in our “permanent record.” It sounded so, ah, permanent. Lent is upon us and as we examine the sacrament of reconciliation, we may wish to ponder the one permanent record that really matters.

Thanks to those of you who took the time to pen me a note on last month’s column about the nuns who were the foundation for Catholic education in the fifties and sixties. I read at least a dozen positive, heart-warming stories. Those women who represented the consecrated life might have been of a different time and culture, but they did good work and contributed mightily to the Catholic experience for many of us. They continue that contribution today, if not in education, in many other areas and disciplines. Our church would be much diminished without them.

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