If you came across a lost wallet, what would you do? Leave it, keep it, check for identification, see if it held any money, find somewhere to turn it in?
Apparently, it depends on where you live, if the results of a social experiment are correct.
A team of researchers dropped 17,000 wallets in banks, theaters, museums, hotels and post offices in 355 cities across 40 different countries to see what people might do. Results indicate people in Switzerland were the most honest in returning the wallets. Canada didn't make the top tier, but I will point out that none of the seven cities surveyed were in Saskatchewan. I'm sure it would have made a difference, right?
People say honesty is one of the most desired qualities they seek in a partner, friend or colleague, yet we've become so cynical we don't seem to expect it any longer. At the very least we have created a sliding scale on which we place statements and rationalize lies to suggest one isn't as bad as another. To further distance ourselves from confronting lying, we have created alternate vocabulary for it and then invoke explanations like misinformation, embellishment or someone simply being economical with the truth. Regardless of how we might want to downplay the consequences, truth matters.
Bobby Jones was the most successful amateur golfer to compete at a national and international level. He is considered one of the most influential individuals in the history of the sport. Titles and championships aside, there is a moment in his career that established Jones as the ultimate sportsman and one of the most honest people in the world.
It was the 1925 U.S. Open. On the 11th hole, Jones found himself in the rough. As he prepared for his shot, the head of his club brushed the grass and caused a slight movement of the ball. He then took his shot but told officials and his playing partner that he had violated Rule 18 since the grass caused a slight movement to the ball. They all tried to talk him out of it, but he insisted. His self-imposed penalty forced a playoff which Jones lost.
The world of sports has other famous examples where coaches or athletes have called out their own mistakes or corrected a call, even when it cost a game, a match or championship. They are often heralded as heroes for doing so, given what was on the line. They certainly make for teachable moments, but shouldn’t doing the right thing just be expected?
An elderly man walked into a department store and handed the manager an envelope containing a note and $100. The note explained that more than 60 years earlier, he had stolen about $25 from the store and now wanted to pay it back with interest. Reaction to his story was heartwarming and yet heartbreaking at the same time, particularly when it was remarked, "honest people, they are a different breed."
Really? Is honesty so rare that honest people are a different breed? That must be why those seeking to create observances on every day in the calendar year have declared April 30 to be Honesty Day. It was initiated by M. Hirsch Goldberg, a former Maryland press secretary and author. He chose the last day of April for Honesty Day as a counterpoint to the pranks that accompany April Fool's Day.
It also happens to be the anniversary of George Washington's first inauguration—a president lauded for his honesty.
Government officials don't fare nearly as well in current surveys. Nurses are at the top of occupations perceived as most honest while lobbyists and politicians sit at the bottom. Of course, painting entire occupations with broad strokes isn't representative of all individuals within the category. It is our encounters and the overall scrutiny that forms those perceptions.
Ultimately though, we would hope the desire to be honest, or holding at bay the temptation toward dishonesty, has less to do with career and more to do with character.
So on the last day of April, we are encouraged to be truthful in all we do, whether conducting business, speaking with others, or dealing with children. It seems to me there is a better goal to shoot for. Yes, we can celebrate the occasion with a day-long emphasis on truth, or we could embrace the concept of living honestly every day. That’s my outlook.