Garner: Opinion

Trust is priceless possession

A boy spent several hours picking wild berries, then went to several homes to peddle them.

While he remained on the porch, one woman took his pail into her house to measure out some of the berries. She called out to him, “Aren’t you afraid I might take more berries than I pay for?”

“No ma’am,” he said. “But if you did, you would get the worst of it.”

“How can you say that?” she asked.

“Because,” he answered, “I would only lose my berries, but you would be stealing,” which showed that the boy had learned a great lesson about honesty and trust.

Conditions in the world would improve immediately and immeasurably if real trust prevailed: trust between people, trust between spouses, trust between parents and children, trust between nations and trust in businesses, classrooms and courtrooms.

Trust is essential in numerous situations. For example, who would leave a baby in the care of someone else unless there was trust? How could a parent allow a child to spend the night at someone’s house unless there was trust? How could a person allow access to a cash register, safe or jewel case unless there was trust? How could anyone allow someone to use their automobile, boat or beach cottage without trust.

Trust is essential in courting and marriage, in parent-children relationships, in employer-employee relationships and in business relationships. It’s essential between friends and between relatives. Trust is essential when a person surrenders his money for someone to invest in securities, banks or property. Trust is essential in selecting an automobile driver or a boat operator.

Being cheated or lied to about the condition of a house, a used car or a product can end personal and business relationships. An employee might be caught stealing and then fired, or he might repay the cost and never steal again. But the offense will likely never be forgotten, causing the employee to be kept under constant surveillance. If an employer fails to pay the wages promised to an employee or refuses to pay the promised benefits, the employee will have difficulty in ever trusting the employer again.

If a husband cheats on his wife or has been found to have lied about where he was, who he was with or what he was doing, even though the wife might extend forgiveness, she will never forget it, causing her always to wonder when he calls or is late if he really is where he says he is. The same can be said, of course, of a wife who cheats or lies. Distrust is a very high price to pay for infidelity and lying, making trust a priceless possession. It might take a lifetime to establish a reputation of trust, but it can be lost by a single incident of lying, stealing or unfaithfulness.

Having trust and possessing character might be compared to climbing a ladder. There might have been many careful steps to the top rung, but just one slip can cause irreparable harm.

“Don’t you trust me, mother? a daughter or son might ask. Hopefully so. The siblings have a treasured possession if their parents can trust them.

A person might be considered a thief if he or she has been caught in just one incident of stealing. A spouse can lose the treasured quality of trust, even if there is only one time when faithfulness was lost.

Trust in what a person says can be lost in a moment when the person’s story is found out to be untrue. This happened to me when a professional man asked me about my service during World War II. I told him I was an armorer on a B-24 and sometimes flew on the huge bomber. He responded by telling me he had flown at night in a B-24 over occupied France and parachuted behind the lines to participate in combat operations. Later I related this story to a friend of his who had served with him. While laughing, his friend told me that I had been fed a line and that the man had never been in or flew in a B-24 and had never been dropped at night into France.

I had no cause to disbelieve the man who told me that cock-and-bull story. However, his false story caused me to lose respect for him and to “take with a grain of salt” anything he subsequently told me, even when there could have been bits of truth in his stories. Trust in what the man said was completely lost for me.

A court bailiff asked a witness, “Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?” The witness answered, “I do, but it sure is going to handicap my testimony.” Indeed. The truth in court or anyplace would alter many situations.

Faith and trust are quite similar. A person’s capability to have trust and faith is one of God’s wonderful gifts to people. Without trust and faith, we would become isolated and unable to do much of anything. Can we trust the promises of politicians? Can we trust news reports in the media? Can we trust the testimonies given in our courts? Can we trust what is being taught in the classrooms? Can we trust what our friends say? Can our friends trust what we say? Are you considered to be trustworthy?

Oh, what a different world it would be if everybody told the truth.

Ray Hodge is a retired pastor who makes his home in Smithfield.