Friday, June 10

Doing well by doing good: why honesty shouldn't surprise us

I shouldn't be surprised.  Maybe I'm not so much surprised as somewhat disappointed.  Maybe I'm not really disappointed, but relieved.

There was an article online today about a Chicago area man who returned a bag full of money.  This is a much better story that Weiner-gate or any other stories of inappropriate behavior coupled with a social media faux pas.  Though, as an aside, the fact that Representative Anthony Weiner noted he meant to send a direct message in Twitter was a wonderful lesson for folks who are trying to understand what happens when something is posted through Twitter, whether good or humiliating.

Anyway, today's story and peoples' reaction was gratifying and yet disappointing.  Robert Adams seems to be a hard-working guy and, according to the story, credits his parents who taught him right from wrong.  Onesimo Santillan, owner of the Senor Taco restaurant Mr. Adams frequents, said this money-returning citizen is a nice guy, so the behavior was no surprise.  And the Rolling Meadows police thought Mr. Adams deserved some sort of reward.

So I went from disappointment to being relieved in a fairly short period of time.  Disappointed because we seem to be surprised when people are honest which suggests that honest and decent behavior is somewhat rare.  But I know it isn't.  Some of us are fortunate enough to work with honest and decent people every day.  Yes, we work with our share of putzes and we are ourselves in that category every now and then, maybe more often that we like...from other peoples' perspectives.  We just don't write headlines about honest and decent behavior.

Or not enough headlines.  Too often we seem to prefer the salacious, the comeuppance, the embarrassment.  Too often, or so the media must think, we prefer to see the powerful laid low.  The fancy word for that is "schadenfreude."  Makes us feel better about ourselves.  There's some deeply disturbing about that, too.

Today, then, I'm going to focus on Robert Adams and his do-gooding self.  I hope this experience doesn't ruin him and that he doesn't start to believe he deserves a reward because he did the right thing.  On the other hand, I hope he gets some sort of a reward, even if it's only a free chorizo burrito or two.

I hope we are constantly reminded of Robert Adams and others like him, like the thousands of people who contribute when others experience devastating loss.  I hope that eventually the stories of people doing good outweigh the power-trippy stories of men (and women) behaving badly, whether sending naked pictures of themselves or groping maids.

I hope we are encouraged by the likes of Robert Adams.  I hope we are relieved that we live and work with mostly good and decent people who aren't routinely celebrated because they are "just" good and decent people who live good and decent lives.

I'm reminded of the "doing the right thing" and "pay it forward" commercials by Liberty Mutual.  I hope we celebrate the good people in our lives, even if only in small ways because so often they make differences in our lives in small ways.  But those small ways add up.

So I hope we notice the good things, the right things.  And I hope we thank them.

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