By Henrylito D. Tacio
“Honesty is the best policy.” Benjamin Franklin’s famed words of advice are as true today as in any other time in history. It is a virtue that every child must learn and the majority of adults must practice for our civilization to thrive, our economy to prosper, and our democracy to be preserved.
“Honesty is the first chapter of the book of wisdom,” says Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Carlyle adds: “Make yourself an honest man, and then you may be sure there is one less rascal in the world.”
How will you know that a person is honest? Groucho Marx surmises: “There is one way to find out if a man is honest; ask him! If he says yes you know he’s crooked.” Alexander Pope claims: “An honest man’s the noblest work of God.”
Johann Friedrich von Schiller believes that “honesty prospers in every condition of life.” John Lyly argues: “The true measure of life is not length, but honesty.” William Shakespeare wrote wryly: “Though I am not naturally honest, I am so sometimes by chance.”
Let me tell you a story as recalled by Anne Heagney. It is about a famous Hollywood actor named Burt Lancaster, who won an Oscar for his tour de force performance in Elmer Gantry.
Lancaster came from a very poor family. As a boy growing up in New York City, he had the usual boyish cravings from cream puffs, chocolates, and ice cream. A quarter looked big to him in those days.
One day, as he stood on a corner in front of a bank, he looked down and saw a $20 bill lying in the gutter. It was the largest amount of money he had ever set eyes on and his heart fairly jumped for joy at his great discovery.
He leaned down, picked up the bill and put it in his pocket. He was thinking of the joy it would give his mother when he ran home with his prize. As he stood there dreaming of the delicious things he could now buy, an elderly lady approached him. He noticed how worried and upset she looked.
“You didn’t see a $20 bill, did you sonny?” she asked. And she explained how she had cashed a check for that amount at the bank to buy some articles that were badly needed for her family. She was in tears when she said, “I don’t know what I’ll do if I don’t find it. I must have dropped it here somewhere…”
Lancaster’s fingers closed on the bill; a picture flashed through his mind of the good things all that money could buy. He must have been strongly tempted to keep what he’d found even though he knew it would be wrong. Still, he could have said, “Sorry, lady, I didn’t see your money.”
Instead, he pulled out the bill. “You did lose it here, Ma’am. I found it.” And he handed over the twenty dollars.
The look of joy on her tired, anxious face sent a warm glow to his heart. She thanked him and went away with a light step. The star recalled it as the happiest memory of his life.
Does it pay to be honest? Allow me to share this story: Once upon a time, there was a king who was growing old and knew it was coming time to choose his successor. Instead of choosing one of his assistants or one of his own children, he decided to do something different.
One day, the king called all the young people in the kingdom together. “It has come time for me to step down and to choose the next king,” he told them. “I have decided to choose one of you.”
The kids were shocked! “I am going to give each one of you a seed today,” the king continued. “One seed. It is a very special seed. I want you to go home, plant the seed, water it and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from this one seed. I will then judge the plants that you bring to me, and the one I choose will be the next emperor of the kingdom!”
One of the boys who attended the meeting was a boy named Joshua. Like the others, he, too, received a seed. He went home and excitedly told his mother the whole story. She helped him get a pot and some planting soil, and he planted the seed and watered it carefully. Every day, he would water it and watch to see if it had grown.
After about three weeks, some of the other youths began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow. Joshua kept going home and checking his seed, but nothing ever grew. Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks went by. Still nothing.
By now, others were talking about their plants but Joshua didn’t have a plant, and he felt like a failure. Six months went by, still nothing in Joshua’s pot. He just knew he had killed his seed. Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had nothing. Ling didn’t say anything to his friends, however. He just kept waiting for his seed to grow.
A year later, all the youths of the kingdom brought their plants to the king for inspection. Joshua told his mother that he wasn’t going to take an empty pot. But she encouraged him to go, and to take his pot, and to be honest about what happened. Joshua felt sick to his stomach, but he knew his mother was right. He took his empty pot to the palace.
When Joshua arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by all the other youths. They were beautiful, in all shapes and sizes. Joshua put his empty pot on the floor and other kids laughed at him. “Hey nice try,” said those who felt sorry for him.
When the king arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted the young people. Joshua just tried to hide in the back. “My, what great plants, trees and flowers you have grown,” commented the king. “Today, one of you will be appointed the next king!”
All of a sudden, the king spotted Joshua at the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered his guards to bring him to the front. Joshua was terrified. “The king knows I’m a failure! Maybe he will have me banished to another kingdom!”
When Joshua got to the front, the king asked his name. “My name is Joshua,” he replied. All the kids were laughing and making fun of him. The king asked everyone to quiet down. He looked at Joshua, and then announced to the crowd, “Behold your new king! His name is Joshua!”
Joshua couldn’t believe what he heard. Joshua couldn’t even grow his seed. How could he be the new emperor?
“One year ago today,” the king explained, “I gave everyone here a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But I gave you all boiled seeds, which would not grow. All of you, except Joshua, have brought me trees and plants and flowers. When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Joshua was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. Therefore, I have chosen him to be the new king!”
Sidney Madwed wonders: “Would you want to do business with a person who was 99% honest?”
Your answer is as good as mine! — ###