Friday, August 14, 2009

Honesty is the best policy...

Mark Twain once said, "when in doubt, tell the truth." It sounds so simple, doesn't it? But there are so many shades of truth, and many different types of lies. 

The truth can be harsh, and, in an effort to shield someone, a lie is born. However, with so much else, the phrase, "give him/her an inch and s/he'll take a mile" often comes into play here. Human nature is a funny thing. Enough people have been burned by its vagaries and become jaded enough that the following stories evoke more surprise than anything else.

The New York Daily News reported on a cabbie who may be the most honest man in New York. When a vacationing Canadian family left a bag containing nearly $2000 in his cab, Mohammed Bhuiyan didn't hesitate. Having fortuitously given the passengers his cell phone number before the Shaw family departed his cab, Bhuiyan held onto the money until the Shaws returned to the city three days later. 

I'm really not sure why more people have not heard of traveler's checks, but a Good Samaritan committed an almost identical act of kindness in London, according to the London Evening Standard. Sri Lankan tourist Suranganie Joseph left a bag containing $3800 and her family's passports and plane tickets on a train in the London Underground. It was not until after she changed trains a second time Joseph realized it was gone. Through the help of a persistent station manager, her bag was located at another station - with valuables completely intact.

CBS News' Assignment America highlighted a vacation town on Lake Erie which the reporter has termed the "Most Honest Town in America." The profile highlights how people in the town don't lock their bikes, much less their doors. Store-owners even leave merchandise out all night and come back to find payment for the bought items. Even the candy store is "help yourself." Children go in, pick out their goodies, and leave correct change in the cash register. 

To these published stories, I'd like to add my own little anecdote. When I was studying abroad in Dublin, Ireland, in 2003 I lost my cell phone. They were expensive since Europe does more of a pay-as-you-go system and thus cannot get you on the service plan charges. It was also my only way of communicating with America outside of school hours. 

I'd fallen asleep on the bus ride back from town, and the phone must have fallen out of my jacket pocket. Luckily I lived on the end of a bus line, so I was able to (frantically) search each bus as it came back around from the end-point. No joy. Desolate, I went back to my house-stay and confessed to my house-parents what had happened. The father suggested calling it to see if anyone answered. 

Dubiously, I did so, and to my surprise, an elderly woman answered my phone with "Oh, I was wondering if anyone would call." She proceeded to give me her home address and a cup of tea (and my phone) when I got there. I couldn't believe it. We had a nice little visit, and then I proceeded home. Six years later that memory still gives me little fuzzies. : ) 

(Photo courtesy of the London Evening Standard)

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