Wednesday, February 27, 2013

"Good" news: Homeless man returns diamond ring, $95K is raised for him

When the office is slow at my weekend job, my main duty is to man the front desk: answer the phone if it rings, and tend to any walk-ins if there are any.  So when the phone's not ringing and people aren't coming in, it's me and the desk.  And the computer.

Many websites are blocked at the weekend job, but the girl who trained me told me that she regularly reads CNN when work is slow.  So I've started to do the same.

While reading CNN on Sunday, I came across this article about a homeless man who returned a diamond ring to a woman who accidentally gave it to him when she dumped the contents of her coin purse into his collection cup.

This is great, to give back things that don't belong to you -- even if they're really nice things that you could never afford -- but this story made the national news.  And then the diamond ring owner started an online fundraiser for the homeless man.  As of Sunday the various donations totalled nearly $95,000, and the fundraiser is scheduled to last 90 days!  At that point they'll give all of the money raised to the man.

Now at first glance, this is a wonderfully good news story.  But I couldn't keep myself from looking further.  Even though I'm a person who focuses on the positive and gives others the benefit of the doubt, I had a different reaction to this story.

The fact that returning something to its owner receives this much praise and attention is worrisome.  The "hero" of the story even said, "What I actually feel like is, 'what has the world come to when a person who returns something that doesn't belong to him and all this happens?'"

People from all around have donated nearly 100K to this man!  What does that suggest?

Is it simply because he's homeless?  I mean, would the same outcome have happened if a middle-class home owner were to have returned a diamond ring to its owner?  If not, then the public is assuming that homeless people have lower morals, so doing the "right" thing in this case has more merit.  This is not a good line-of-thought to follow!  All people can be good; as far as I'm aware, wealth does not correlate with one's morality.

It also rubs me the wrong way because I have friends and family who do good deeds time and time again with no reward.  Deeds and actions that make a greater impact on others' lives than returning a piece of jewelry to its owner.  All of the money involved in this specific case suggests that this man's deed is worth a hundred thousand dollars, though I strongly beg to differ.

And then there's the optimizer in me can't help but to think: Give the money somewhere where it can make the greatest positive effect possible.  Maybe give the man $5,000 or some amount, and then donate the rest to wherever it's needed most within that community.  Save the children!  Feed the hungry!  House the homeless!  Teach people to read!  Educate, educate!

I know, I know: Life is not fair.  It's not fair when bad things happen, nor apparently when good things happen.  I can live with that.   Life right now is letting me read CNN at the weekend job, so I'll take what I can get.  Just as long as the phone's not ringing and walk-ins aren't coming in!

I'm curious to hear your thoughts on this news story.  Am I being too negative?  Or does it rub you the wrong way as well?
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  1. As you said "House the homeless" would be a good way to spend the money. The man was homeless, right? So if he spent the 95k on housing, wouldn't that be a positive thing? I don't think you're being too negative, but I think overall it's good that the story even exists at all. We can all agree that it's a good thing that society is rewarding positive behavior, even if the reward is disproportionate to the deed. In the end, the story is promoting good deeds, and I think that's a good deed in itself.

    1. Yes, that would be positive if he bought a house - but why one house for one person when you could provide shelter to three or four, or x number of people? I'm probably being hypocritical, but that's the first thought that comes to mind.

      And yes, we can agree that it's good that society's rewarding positive behavior. I should just stop there.