My spouse is being rushed to hospital and every fibre of my being says I must get there now!
I have no money — except for that fake $20 bill stuffed away. How furious I had been when I discovered it was counterfeit. What right did someone have to steal that money from me? But now it may be a ticket to get me to the hospital, where I desperately need to be. A taxi is approaching, and I’m sure the driver will be unable to spot the fake bill as I jump out of the cab. Maybe the world is fair after all.
So why do I feel guilty in the midst of my panic? Doesn’t my great need justify this small act of dishonesty?
No, that small voice tells me, it does not. I am both lying and stealing if I pass this counterfeit bill. When I enter the taxi and ask to be taken to the hospital, I am engaging the driver’s services. He or she has every right to assume I will pay for the trip. In handing over the fake $20, I am breaking that contract and stealing.
I do not have the right to impose my needs on this unsuspecting stranger any more than the forger did on me.
I am also revealing my lack of faith in the basic decency of others. I am assuming that if I honestly explain my predicament to the driver, I’ll be ordered out of the cab. Why not take a chance on compassion?
Furthermore, I can offer to take the driver’s contact information and commit to paying the fare the next day. Or I can provide “collateral” worth at least $20 — my watch, perhaps — and retrieve it when I pay the driver. In that way, the only one at risk of losing is me.
It’s a risk I need to take. My self-respect is worth more than a $20 cab fare.
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