One day in November a kind neighbor brought several bags of sweet potatoes to our home. He sat for a moment to provide a tale of trust that would exceed any nutrition flowing from the potatoes.
Our gift bearing neighbor was returning to Lafayette from his childhood home near Marksville north of “Oil City.” He stopped by a small store known for its fresh vegetables. Boxes of potatoes and other veggies were displayed openly. There were no clerks attending the rural market. One box was placed near the door which could not be missed upon entering or departure. A cardboard sign scrawled by hand read:
“JUST PUT YOUR MONEY IN THIS BOX.”
There were no locks, no steel box. It was a pure honor system that reminded me of Mueller’s ICE & FEED STORE in Breese, Illinois during my youthful years. That honor system did have a wooden box nailed to the wall of a walk-in refrigerator. We could pick up blocks of ice ranging from 50 to 150 pounds with the aid of steel tongs. A small sign near the refrigerator door declared:
“IT IS COLD IN THIS REFRIGERATOR, BUT HOT IN HELL. PLEASE PUT YOUR MONEY IN THIS BOX.”
During ten years (1970’s) of riding extremely hot and crowded public buses in Hong Kong, the weary bus drivers did not always see if passengers boarding the double decker vehicles dropped coins into the steel box. Some passengers took the liberty to chat with anxious drivers even though a sign said clearly:
“DO NOT TALK WITH DRIVERS WHILEST COACH IS IN MOTION!”
If one passenger stood by the coin box to talk with the driver, others could walk behind her/him to steal on to the bus. The HONG KONG KOWLOON MOTOR BUS COMPANY then moved to deal with those who sneaked on to busses by stationing a ticket collector on each bus. He would struggle through the crowded bus issuing tickets as passengers boarded and then asking each passenger to show their ticket stub. If a passenger could not provide the stub, the second crew member would pull a cord that stopped the bus so the less-than-honest passenger would shamefacedly be invited to exit at the next stop. Such humiliation discourages dishonesty another time. “Losing face” is painful to Chinese people.
If a pickpocket was operating on the crowded bus, all we had to do was call out “SAAM JEK SAU” (with proper Chinese tones) meaning “Three handed person.” The driver immediately locked all doors of the bus while driving to the nearest police station. Once at the station, police would board the bus while an offended passenger pointed to the pickpocket. Such a demonstration also discouraged another attempted picking of pockets or purses in the city of four million, many of whom rode public transportation.
George MacDonald (1824 – 1905) taught simple basic ethics to all of us by saying: “It is a greater compliment to be trusted than to be loved.”
Roselyn, my wife of fifteen years, enjoys her work as a care giver for children after classes are dismissed at 3PM. From that hour till parents pick them up at 5PM, she and her cohorts have a priceless period to instill precious values in children.
If we all are taught basic honesty and integrity once found in Marksville, LA and Breese, IL (one murder in 150 years) we might be spared from unwholesome encounters with civil authorities in their future.
Trust is the basis of love.