Friday, March 26, 2010

The Golden Rule

A few months ago, I was attending a meeting in Columbia, Maryland. When I walked out to find my car in the very crowded parking lot, I noticed a note on it. "Please forgive me. I accidently hit your car and broke the light cover. Here is my insurance information."

I was so stunned to see the note. I suppose my faith in common humanity is not that high - not high enough to expect someone who hit my car to leave a note. The damage was minimal. A tail light cover was cracked. The entire cost of repair was around $150 when the insurance check arrived. It was a small thing. Yet, the gesture was invaluable.

My car has been swiped numerous times. Parking in an underground garage is not always good for a car. In an effort to make money, garage operators typically seek to fill the garage as full as possibly. My bumpers and a few other places on my car show the impact of parking in such a place for several years now. No one else has ever left a note when they have swiped my car or my bumper. But this person did. This person recognized what he did and got out of his car, leaving his entire insurance card on my windshield.

This afternoon, I was running errands. When I finished grocery shopping, I stopped at the Post Office to mail a couple of packages. The parking spot that was available was a parallel parking spot on the driver's side - not always a side I am accustomed to parking on, and the spot was rather tight. While parking my car, I accidently scratched the car in front of me. It is a small scratch - but it is a scratch, nonetheless. My first reaction was to listen to my heart beating. My second reaction was to wonder what to do. I paused for a few moments, and then I remembered what the other person had done for me. I got out of my car and stuck my business card on the windshield with a note explaining how I had bumped the car. I apologized. I then got in my car and drove home. I now wait for the person to call.

What I did today was not easy. It would have been so much easier to look around, conclude that no one saw me bump another car, and then continue on my way. It would have been easier to pretend that nothing happened and to go about my day. Yet, the person who left a note on my car showed me what is right. He went out of his way to demonstrate integrity and honesty by acknowledging his mistake.

I wonder. I wonder how much different this world would be if everyone reacted like the person who hit my car a few months ago. What would be different in this world if we readily admitted our mistakes, our shortcomings, our failures - no matter how costly the mistake? What if we all sought to do what is right - when people are looking and when no one is looking?

I have screwed up so many times and found it easier to seek to move on with my life instead of confronting my shortcomings. And while I can pretend to have buried these shortcomings or failures deep in the ground, they still have a way of resurfacing at times.

Today, I bumped a car. I scratched the bumper of someone's Honda Accord. I hate that I did it, and I don't think many people will even notice it. But, just in case...just in case, I left a note. I admitted my mistake. I asked the person to call so I can apologize and take care of it.

Thank you driver in Columbia, Maryland who hit my car. Thank you for restoring my faith in common humanity. Thank you for teaching me how to respond in similar situations.

It was one of the first things I ever learned in school. Always do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

No comments: