Honesty is an undervalued commodity in today's world. Cynicism and mistrust are our allies in the 21st Century. Our leaders bicker. Our television hosts bellow. Our society admires the selfish, braggadocious and crude.
But every so often a little sparkle of honesty and kindness shines through the muck and brightens your day.
Last week I was fortunate enough to receive a simple, hand-written note wrapped around a crinkled one dollar bill. Scrawled in pencil was a simple message: "I'm sorry. I took two newspapers out of your newsstand when I only meant to take one." The note was unsigned as was the envelope in which it arrived.
I've never been happier to receive a dollar bill in my life.
My joy didn't come from the monetary gain. Simply put – it made me happy to know that decency and honesty aren't dead just yet.
A couple of years ago, I told of an encounter with a thief at one of our newsstands. This brazen woman was caught in the act and hurled a racial slur at the Press-Herald employee who called her on the theft.
It would not be an understatement for me to say she was not a very nice lady. Now I'm not stupid. I know newspaper pilferage is an industry wide problem and probably has been since the Boston News-Letter published its first issue in April of 1704.
I know it's an age-old issue. But as of late, newspaper pilferage has grown. And it amazes me that someone will become a thief, breaking one of God's commandments, for 75 cents. You may say, "it's less than a dollar. Not really a big deal." I say, "It's less than a dollar. Not really a big deal, so be honest and pay for the dang thing."
If you're stealing you're doing wrong, whether it's a copy of your hometown paper or robbing a bank. Theft is a theft is a theft. Moses didn't come down from Sinai and solemnly intone on Commandment 8, "And you shall not steal in excess of $100" (or whatever passed for currency during the Exodus).
I've heard Minden Police Chief Steve Cropper discussing the shoplifters his officers arrest on a routine basis. Almost every time, the Chief says the folks doing the theft have enough cash on them to pay for the items they stole. Yet, they break the law nonetheless.
It's a sad, sad thing.
That's why the honesty, the note and the dollar meant so much to me. In the 15 years I've been in this business, that was the first time I've ever encountered such honesty.
It's heartwarming, and I'm thankful for this unnamed person.
There's just one thing. To our Good Citizen: you sent me a dollar. The paper is only 75 cents.
I owe you a quarter.
Josh Beavers is the publisher of the Minden Press-Herald. He is a two-time recipient of the Best Newspaper Column award given annually by the Louisiana Press Association.