Sunday, 9 September 2012

Honesty is the best policy?

I have a problem with modern life - actually, that's not fair; I think I'd have problems in most eras. I'm always amazed the way people lie - in Court, to each other, to strangers.  I'm not talking white lies ('yes, you look amazing') but bigger ones.  The ones that can put one in a bad light.  I find it especially boggling when there is proof that the thing has been done by the person concerned.  How can someone, in all honesty, state they are innocent of a crime when there is proof?  I find it deeply unsettling and I'm very grateful I've never been called for jury duty (you just wait, tomorrow morning....).

I can only assume it is down to upbringing. I was taught, 'don't lie, don't cheat, don't steal, don't swear (okay, I've fallen from that one), and be polite.'  The latter is why it gets my goat when people push ahead in a line or don't thank one when the door has been opened for them or I've stepped aside to let them pass...but that's a different story.  My parents may have been poor but they raised us right, as the saying goes.  Unfortunately.

The problem is that cheating, lying, stealing is the way of the world and the expression, 'nice guys finish last,' is so much on the nail that it's frightening.  Look at our MPs and their expenses - cheats are brought back into the Cabinet and failed MPs are rewarded for half doing a job with gongs.  The banks and bankers are another example - Gordon Gecko was right, greed is good.

The other day I took Flavia to the orthodontist (she has to have a couple of teeth out before the bottom brace is attached.  She's deeply upset about this; not at the removal of the teeth but at the prospect of an injection. Her reasoning is that having a needle in the mouth is unnatural.  She has a point).  Nothing untoward occurred except that she found a £10.00 note on the journey.  She pocketed it, reasoning no-one was actively searching for it at the time.  I had mixed emotions about the whole thing.  The Mother in me felt she should seek out the owner ('is anyone missing a ten pound note?  It's identifiable by the fact that it has a picture of the Queen on the front'), but a part of me not only understood why she had put it in her pocket, but also knew that the majority of people would think her certifiable if she had made steps to seek the originator.  Sadly I was grateful I hadn't been put in that position.  After doing my own investigative work I would probably have kept the money but been racked by guilt for the next few decades.  (Quite true.  I found some money in 2003 and still have pangs of guilt that I didn't hand it over to some invisible being).

It made me remember a time when Flavia was seven.  Simon was living in Eastbourne and I was in Cardiff and the only way I could transport Flavia from one place to another was via the train (the cost was still almost within the realms of mortal men at that point).  Flavia and I arrived back in Cardiff somewhere around ten o'clock on a Saturday night.  Not only that, but it was a match night so we had to walk about thirty minutes to the bus stop.  On the way, Flavia found a two pence piece.  She was distraught.  Someone had dropped this money and would be missing it.  I'd been travelling since seven that morning and desperately wanted to get on the outside of a pint of coffee or two but nothing would distract her.  She had to find the owner.  My pointing out that nearly everyone we saw was so out of it they wouldn't notice if they lost a £50.00 let alone tuppence was ignored.  She had to find the owner.  

Twenty minutes later (and still no result), Flavia decided to compromise and give it to a policeman. He was a young lad and made me feel indescribably old as he bent down to try to hear Flavia over the drunken shouts, whistles and general noises of affray.  Solemnly she explained the situation and carefully placed the coin into his hand.  I felt rather sorry for him, actually.  He tried to suggest no-one cared (nicely, of course), but she'd have none of it.  Then he suggested she keep it.  The horror on her face let him know how shocking such an idea was.  He was obviously desperate to get on with his duties (babysitting idiots) but couldn't bear to let this angelic, trusting little girl down.  Finally (and I had to congratulate him on his thinking) he offered to put it in a charity box if he couldn't find it's rightful owner.  This - thankfully - met with Flavia's approval and, after bestowing one of her special smiles on him she was quite happy to wave goodbye and let her mother head towards caffeine heaven.

I regaled Flavia with this story and she couldn't decide whether to be amused or disgusted at her former naivety.  Which I found rather sad.  Whilst I admit to having been in the situation of searching for pennies to try to help the family budget, the knowledge that Flavia's innate honesty and goodness is now at 'normal' standards is depressing but I know the world will deal more kindly with her because of it - it certainly won't hold her up to ridicule.

In the meantime her mother will continue to fret about injustice, apologise to spiders for accidentally trashing their webs and do her best not to step on ants.

I know which one of us will have a more successful life!

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