I've never been comfortable with even the smallest of thefts, the kind that others assure me is meaningless because "everyone does it." When one of our party would steal an ashtray from a restaurant, I would feel bad because it was wrong and fearful because it would be embarassing, and possibly worse, to be caught. (Ashtrays were especially popular - I wonder what has replaced the ashtray now that smoking is banned in most places.)
That pencil called to me, and, after all, it was only a pencil - much smaller than an ashtray and one of those things that is commonly lost, dropped, abandoned around campuses everywhere. I avoided it for the longest time, moving around the shelves, ignoring it sitting there in its perfect yellowness.
To this day, I'm sure that my search took me to every stack in that area of the library, and there simply was no one else nearby. The pencil was clearly abandoned (and still calling to me!).
As I walked away, a voice from where I know not said, "That's my pencil."
I put the pencil back down on the shelf and slunk away. I felt like the biggest thief ever - caught, guilty, wrong, embarassed. I'm still not sure that I wasn't the "victim" of a psych or philosophy experiment or of a joke.
But I knew in that moment why I was never, and never would be, comfortable with people stealing things - small, big, meaningless, or anything else . My very short career as a thief was over before it really got started.