Funny ad. But not so funny when you lose one of those pricey stones. The good news is finders are not always keepers. And here’s one example reminding us of how trustworthy many people are. When I turned 18 my late father gave me a lovely pair of diamond studs which I wore almost daily. They were demure, pretty and tasteful. Then one afternoon as I passed a mirror (and, vanity prevailing, snuck a quick peek) I saw that one lovely lobe was missing its diamond accessory. I frantically searched the staircase and ultimately found the earring back. But not the gem. So I performed a quick experiment with a different set of earrings and found that the back of an earring stays attached to your ear (must be moisture) long after the front gem or metal end has fallen out. So I retraced my steps. Crawled around on the floor. Lifted pillows. Checked the vacuum cleaner bag. And still found no evidence of the sentimental stone my father had gifted me with. I felt disappointed with myself for being so careless with something that, far outweighing its replacement cost, personally meant so much to me.
Despite the odds of ever finding it again, I still strangely held out hope that someday I might.
Then, months later, I arrived home to an unexpected sight. There, lying plain as day on the end table in the living room, right next to a framed picture of my Dad was my lost earring. Spooky. For a moment I was possessed by a childlike wish that he had somehow willed this discovery from beyond. Perhaps. How could I have overlooked it for all these months? If it was him playing the unexpected but most welcome guest I was so glad the house had been tidy. A trait he always admired.
Ah. Tidiness does not happen by chance. So I shot off an email to the owner of the housekeeping company I use.
“Luticha, OMG ! Did you find my earring ??? Where was it?”
To which she simply replied, “Rose found it under the couch.”
Luticha and Rose could not have imagined my delight and appreciation at their discovery. More, I suspect they would have been surprised by the unanimous response I received from friends when I told them the story. “What honest people,” they all said rather impressed. But these two ladies were highly recommended to me by one of their clients who described them as hardworking and trustworthy. So, I would have expected no less from them, or really from most people in general. The incident reinforced my belief that the majority of people know the difference between right and wrong and act accordingly.
But a number of studies I looked at suggest “honesty” is a relative thing which is measured along a sliding scale. For instance, the National Association For Shoplifting Prevention estimates that “There are approximately 27 million shoplifters (or 1 in 11 people) in our nation today.” Then there is behavioral economist Dan Ariely who, sadly, but perhaps accurately, calls most of us 98-percenters. “A student told me a story about a locksmith he met when he locked himself out of the house,” said Ariely. “This student was amazed at how easily the locksmith picked his lock, but the locksmith explained that locks were really there to keep honest people from stealing. His view was that 1% of people would never steal, another 1% would always try to steal, and the rest of us are honest as long as we’re not easily tempted. Locks remove temptation for most people. And that’s good, because in our research over many years, we’ve found that everybody has the capacity to be dishonest and almost everybody is at some point or another.”
Maybe the expectation of total honesty is a crap shoot but I can live with the “at some point or another” if the offense is a mild one . We all do suffer from human frailties don’t we? Even I have been known to pilfer an extra sweet and low from Starbucks to use at home the next day. I have done worse I am sure but feel no need to share that information now. But my experience is that, generally, when it comes to the big stuff in life, most people err on the side of good behavior and do the right thing. Which adds weight to the wisdom of Ram Mohan, the father of Indian animation, who said “Consider everyone trustworthy until they prove otherwise.”