I thumbed through the handout, my attention drifting now and then to other things. I adjusted my tie as I turned my attention back to the executive meeting.
"On page twelve in your handout, you'll see the results of our latest studies," my supervisor said.
I looked at the figures, and then looked again. These weren't right. They couldn't be. I was on the lead team for this study, and I knew our numbers weren't this good. I spoke up.
"Mr. Steiner, where did you get these figures?"
"It really doesn't matter where I got the figures, Mr. Mathews. These are the figures of our latest studies."
"But sir, I worked on these studies, and...."
"I said, that these are the figures."
"Allow me to rephrase this, Mr. Matthews. These are the figures we are giving the public. I don't care where they came from. It's what's going out. And that information," he said, locking eyes with each one of us, "is not to leave this room. Do you understand?"
I could see I wasn't getting anywhere, so I nodded and kept quiet for the rest of the meeting.
Later that day I tried to reason with Mr. Steiner again.
"Sir, I realize that our studies haven't been as successful as we had hoped, but that doesn't mean we can just throw out the real data."
"I would advise you again that the information we discussed was not to leave the conference room."
"Mr. Steiner, I've always known you to be a man of integrity..."
"And I've always you to be a loyal man."
"Not another word. If you know what's good for you, you're going to delete the real data from your computer. If you have any handouts with the actual information, shred them."
"But the CEO..."
"Will look the other way."
"But if the public finds out about this..."
I went back to my office and saved the data to a flash drive before deleting it from my computer. Then I shredded all the paper copies of the data. I knew what I should do. No, what I had to do. But if I followed through, it would be the end of my time with this company, and probably the end of my career.
It still surprises me sometimes, when I think off all the trouble that one handout cased.
I knew what I had to do that day, but I didn't follow through. I should have known that we couldn't hide those studies for long, and I should have come clean that same day, even if it cost me my career. But I got scared.
My choice that day finally caught up with me. It caught up with all of us, really. I asked off the rest of the day, planning to turn my information in to the authorities. But then I thought about my family. They needed me to provide for them. And so, I tossed my flash drive into the dumpster.
It pains me to know that people died, partially because of my negligence.
I've learned a lot in these prison walls. Paul says in Romans we don't do the things we want to do, and instead we do the very things we hate. Boy, can I relate to that. I suppose that's one good thing about being in prison. I came to know that Lord.
Oh, I knew about Him, but I didn't know Him. Prison has a way of making you think about your own mortality. Not just thinking about it, but dwelling on it. One of those times, I found my Bible, given to me by the Chaplin when I first arrived here. I blew off the dust and began to read. The next time the Chaplin came by, he gave me a handout. We discussed it, and he led me to the Lord that very day.
I know I deserve the punishment I received, and I wish I could take the place of those who died due to my negligence. But I also know I'm forgiven, and I've even sought reconciliation with the families of those I've wronged.
This Easter, I have a new reason to celebrate. I have a new life in Christ, who has taken my punishment. My debt has been paid in full. Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
It's amazing how much one little handout can change your life; for worse or for better.
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