The Good News about Honesty

Article excerpt

Talk to anyone about the headlines in your local newspaper or the stories on the television news and you're unlikely to hear many upbeat comments. It would seem that the moral standards of the country were slipping right off the edge of the table. But my personal experience repeatedly brings me news to the contrary. Take honesty, for example: It's amazingly easy to find instances that really lift your spirits. Let me tell you about something that happened to me on a recent vacation.

A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I were enjoying a ride up the coast of northern California. A windy, two-lane road gave us our first glimpse of redwood trees, and we finally hit the coast just south of Mondocino. The scenery was stunning, and the day was perfect: sea-stacks topped with little conifers, long waves in the blue-green water, and a thin mist moving in toward the long cliffs.

We took a quick look in the Sierra Club's guidebook to northern California which suggested that nearby Mackerricher State Park would be a good place for some close-up looks at tide pools, one of our favorite preoccupations. We already had a picnic lunch in hand so we scurried out to the beach.

After a quick bite, we followed the tide out onto the rocky headlands. Everything was glistening as the water pulled back, and we were delighted to crawl and hop around to take close-ups of all the wonderous sights. At one point I sat down on the rocks under a cliff to photograph bright-green dripping seaweed ... and that's where it happened: My wallet slipped out of my pocket and onto the beach.

Only the next morning did I realize that it was gone. My wife said it was on its way to China and made jokes about the fish using my credit cards. But somehow I sensed a different outcome.

I told her right away that I wouldn't be the least surprised to see it back, with all its contents. Still, to brace myself for what seemed like a certain loss, I mentally distributed the cost of the missing bills out over the activities of the last few weeks. You know how to do that, right? …