Dear Unknown Driver:
On September 10, 2014, sometime between 8 and 10 p.m., you were driving northbound on Rt. 11 – Main Street – in Woodstock, Virginia. You were right in front of our quaint, small town movie theatre in the heart of Shenandoah County.
Of course, you know that part already.
You drifted to the right on the two-lane road, side-swiped my parked car damaging both doors, and sent my side mirror sailing 40 feet down the street.
You know that part, too.
What you don’t know, because you didn’t stick around, is that I was inside working just a few feet away and wouldn’t discover the damage until I left for the night. I rarely work late, but I’ve been crashing on a couple of deadlines and needed to stretch my day.
After seeing no note, no business card and having no clue who might have breakdanced with my car, I made a call across the street to the police station. Not surprisingly, they were there in two minutes.
The officers were consummate professionals. They circled the car, took pictures and asked questions. Despite it being fairly minor, they treated it with both seriousness and courtesy.
When I expressed surprise that someone would cause this kind of damage without taking responsibility, the men shook their heads and one of them said, flatly, “People just aren’t honest anymore.”
Soon the officers rolled on and I was crawled in my car window to make the short drive home.
Sure, I was frustrated to know I would be dealing with police reports, insurance and a body shop for the next week, but what really bothered me was their assessment.
“People just aren’t honest anymore.”
It’s been days and days and I still can’t stop thinking about it.
I also can’t stop thinking about what would have happened if you’d left a note, called the police or even knocked on my office door. (Mine is street level and the lights were on.)
You don’t know this, because you didn’t give me a chance, but I would have shaken your hand and expressed gratitude that no one was hurt.
I would have asked for your insurance information, and, if you were uninsured, I would have helped find a solution. If you’re a teen and you were driving your parents’ car and worried about the fallout, I would have offered to make the phone call for you.
As we gathered up the glass and broken bits, I would have asked about your family and told you about mine. I would have made a dumb joke about my daughter’s small Drivers Ed dent in the bumper that pre-dates your late night automotive side-hug.
Maybe you don’t even live in the area. Maybe you were passing through, staying at a local hotel or visiting a friend. If so, we could have played the who-do-you-know game and been reminded what a small world we live in.
Most importantly, I would have thanked you for being honest and for doing the right thing. I would’ve told you that the world is too cynical and, in my experience, most people are inherently good. There are exceptions, naturally, but most people thrive when we assume the best in them.
The words still ring in my ears. “People just aren’t honest anymore.”
With all due respect to these fine police officers, I disagree. I think the planet is brimming with good, honest people who far outnumber those who cheat, lie and steal.
We were raised by them. We work with them. We live next door.
Look – how many times in my own life have I needed a few more minutes than most to choose the right? Plenty.
It’s never too late to do the right thing. And just because it’s the oldest cliché in the book doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Thankfully, life isn’t scored by the halftime tally. We’ve all got until the final whistle.
Look me up on Facebook, drop me an email or knock on my office door and we’ll laugh about this and work it out. We can even compare all the dumb things we’ve done. I bet my list is longer than yours.
“People just aren’t honest anymore.”
Malarkey – let’s prove them wrong.
Jason F. Wright is a New York Times bestselling author, columnist and speaker. His newest book is “A Letter to Mary: The Savior's Loving Letter to His Mother” . Subscribe to his weekly columns.