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.