As the story goes, a Minnesota business man received a curious phone call one May afternoon. “Hi, Mr. Hallsworth, my name is Sharyl and I’m calling regarding an envelope with your business card and a ten dollar bill that you left at St. Cloud Lodge Hall in downtown St. Cloud. I’m just calling to find out what this is about. Please call me back. I still have the $10 and your card.”
Not knowing who Sharyl was and not being familiar with St. Cloud Lodge Hall, he returned the call. Sharyl said she had found an envelope in their mail slot a few months ago. Puzzled, he asked her for the address and Sharyl gave the street name and number, saying it was upstairs above a well-known frame shop and art supply store.
Now it all made sense. As it had happened, late in December, he had gone to the frame shop to get a picture frame repaired. Even though she was closing for the day, the shopkeeper fixed it on the spot for $5. She didn’t want to take a credit card for such a small amount, so he offered to pay with a $20 bill, the only cash in his wallet. She didn’t have change, and all the shops around were already closed for the day. The shopkeeper had suggested that he come back when he had change; she would trust him to do that. He agreed, and returned the very next day. Because she had trusted him so much, and charged him so little, he added a $5 tip to the original $5 bill. The shop was closed, so he put his card and a $10 bill through the mail slot.
It turns out the mail slot belonged instead to the office upstairs, St. Cloud Lodge Hall.
The man told Sharyl, “The $10 belongs to the frame shop downstairs. Would you please drop it off to her with my apology. I thought the mail slot was theirs.” Sharyl promised that she would.
You may be thinking that ten dollars is no big deal, but that’s not the point of this oft-told story. Had the amount been a hundred dollars, or a thousand dollars, the narrative could have been the same: The friendly shopkeeper would have told him to come back and settle up when he could. And he would return, as promised, to pay his bill. Sharyl would not have slipped the misplaced cash into her purse—which she very easily could have done—but instead would have gone to the trouble to find the rightful owner, completing the circle of integrity.
The story reminded me of another tale of integrity… a man parked his car in a downtown lot and found a $50 dollar bill on the ground, obviously dropped by someone who had inadvertently dropped it but was now nowhere to be seen. Instead of pocketing the cash, he passed it on to a homeless person on the street.
It’s reassuring to know there are still good, trusting, and trustworthy people in this world. People with integrity in matters large and small; people who can be counted on to keep their word; people who think of others before themselves. William Shakespeare said it well… “no legacy is so rich as honesty.”