Thursday, January 29, 2009

Honor & Grassroots Generosity

My grandfather passed away last March. A memory came to me yesterday of an afternoon he and I went to a local hardware store so that he could purchase an item he needed. The next day, we returned as the item was not what he thought it was. He wasn’t driving any longer being in his late eighties and I was helping him run his errands. We approached the counter to return the item to find that they would not give him a refund because he had paid by check the previous day. Their policy required a ten day waiting period to ensure the check cleared before rendering a refund. We could not exchange it, for they did not carry the item he needed. I was thinking about how this was going to be an inconvenience as we would have to remember and schedule yet another return trip to this store. However, my grandfather was more taken aback at not being trusted than anything else. He told them his check is most certainly good and took it personally that they did not trust his word. While he calmly attempted to procure his refund from the bewildered cashier, I saw the clash of two cultures: one that upheld the honor of one’s word and one that was skeptical of everyone’s words.


Too many have witnessed fraud and deceit to trust a person’s word anymore. There was such a day that there was honor in a man’s word. If he said his account was good for the money, that statement was as good as gold. My grandfather had lived through such an era, but the policy keeping his refund until the check cleared was made in a culture that could not simply accept someone’s word.


I watch today as my country travails through this economic crisis. Businesses are battening down the hatches laying off employees and reducing the quantity and quality of their products and services while increasing the prices. Many are looking out for themselves and I think this is contributing to more economic troubles than if we worked together generously looking out for each other to make it through these times. What if people upheld their word and honor and worked with their employees to find a way to keep jobs while keeping the business alive. Maybe products that are frivolous need a temporary cessation in production to allow greater quality to those necessity items. Maybe cost can be cut in ways that don’t cheapen the products and services. Maybe schedules can be worked out with employees so that those with the greatest needs are given the most hours and those who have second incomes can cut back their hours. There just seems to be a better way than what I am seeing, a way built on generosity and honor and not on selfishness and fear. I think the way we are going to pull out of this crisis, isn’t going to come from more money from Washington, but a grassroots movement of generosity.


Does anyone have any stories of this kind of generosity they have observed or heard about? Instances where employers and employees are working together to help save a company? Instances where people are volunteering their time to help keep their company afloat? Are we thinking about ways that we can serve in these times, or are we only focused on making sure our needs our met? I think there can be a good deal of creative ideas that come from everyday people that can turn these economic problems around. We just need to see beyond our needs to the greater community and nation.

4 comments:

cl said...

Karla,

This is really an excellent post, one of the better I've read in the blogosphere. This line in particular was great:

"While he calmly attempted to procure his refund from the bewildered cashier, I saw the clash of two cultures: one that upheld the honor of one’s word and one that was skeptical of everyone’s words."

Well said, and in this respect I understand atheism and skepticism. So many people are out for self that our natural reaction nowadays is skepticism and distrust. Scandal at every level - government, religious, corporate, educational - with so much bunk out there, I understand why atheists and skeptics dismiss religion.

Also, I thought it was interesting that until mine, this post generated zero comments. Actually, I find that disturbing. Many atheists have nothing to say unless it's negative, and to me, such indicates that the atheists who come here are more interested in maintaining polemical division than potentially meeting common ground with their fellow human beings.

The gist of this post is one all people can and should agree on. Well done.

Anonymous said...

"Scandal at every level - government, religious, corporate, educational - with so much bunk out there, I understand why atheists and skeptics dismiss religion."

Yeah, that must be it. It couldn't possibly have to do with the fact that religion doesn't have evidence for its claims. No, it must be us being irrational for not simply believing. Wow, I never thought of that.

Karla said...

Cl, thank you. I had noticed no one commented on this one, but the other post generated a lot of controversy. When I talk about being generous and helping each other come out of this economic crisis no one has anything to say.

I just read the comments in the other room and I'd ask both you and an anonymous to try and refrain from anything condescending with regard to each other or anyone else. Thanks! I think the only way we can really get at the issues is if we can talk respectfully and ask real questions and give real answers.

cl said...

Let the record show that even in purely positive and praising comment where Anonymous was not even in the thread, he still saw fit to come and focus on something he saw as negative. Not once did he relate his comment to the original post, merely attacked my compliment to you, and this is interesting.

Karla said,

When I talk about being generous and helping each other come out of this economic crisis no one has anything to say.

So true in my experience as well. Most every positive comment I left at DA was totally ignored. This suggests that some atheists have little of anything positive to say.

I just read the comments in the other room and I'd ask both you and an anonymous to try and refrain from anything condescending with regard to each other or anyone else. Thanks!

Agreed out of respect, although what you see as condescending and what myself or Anonymous sees as condescending may certainly differ, so tell me if you feel I've crossed the line in the future.

I think the only way we can really get at the issues is if we can talk respectfully and ask real questions and give real answers.

My "red car" bit was a real answer, if that's what you meant. Either way, this assumes people can be persuaded by reason alone, and with Anonymous, I'm convinced such is not the case. What Dan said in his "exiting comment" on Ebonmuse 1 is also applicable to many atheists, that this

...has nothing whatsoever to do with wanting to hear others views and to learn. The question everyone in here should be asking is "what will it take for you to change your mind". And anon, cyberkitten and others, the answer is nothing, nothing at all. Not even if the fictional Christ returned would these particular people be able to acknowledge it.