“Hey, Wally,” Beaver Cleaver would ask his brother, “Is it okay to loan a bicycle that doesn’t belong to you?”
“Heck, no, Beav,” his other brother would say. “If it’s that neighbor kid Eddy Haskell, you’ll never see it again.”
I loved “Leave it to Beaver,” the TV series about the tousle-headed kid and his story-book family. Whatever bad happened, they solved it in a half-hour. “Now Beaver, what did you learn?” his father Ward would ask when they found the missing bike.
“Gee Dad, honesty is the best policy,” Beaver would say.
When I was a kid, I loved that show, its innocence, simplicity and moral values. It’s funny how now, 50 years later, that moral keeps popping up.
I was reminded of it the other day when I loaned a bicycle to a neighbor kid to run errands. Actually, he’s not a kid– he’s nearly 40 and unemployed. How common is that?
He said he needed the bike to run errands. And unless it’s “Bike to Work Day,” that’s not a good sign either. Still, as I watched him ride off, I began to think I had seen the last of him and a shiny new Schwinn, property of my family. I was right—no “kid,” no bike. Two days later, I was sure I would never see it again.
If my 14-year-old granddaughter Alyssa were here, she would have helped. She once offered to right a wrong by saying, “I know some people who can ‘take care of him.’” And I am sure she did.
Honesty and credibility are two qualities that define us as human beings. Yet easily both are compromised. In grade school, I learned that the hard way.
The teacher assigned a big term paper. I did what lots of kids do, waited until the last minute and then found an encyclopedia to copy word for word. When I flunked the paper, I rationalized. Sure the ideas came from somebody else but the penmanship was mine alone. But my mother, bless her heart, would not listen. She said I had been dishonest with my teacher as well as myself. I never did it again.
Instead, I made my own way with original ideas. My favorite was a map of the dark side of the moon. I won a junior high science fair with that. A kid asked me, “Why did you make a map of the dark side? No one has made it before.”
“That’s why,” I replied. Even as a youngster I knew that originality was everything. I’ve never won an Emmy. But then, I’ve never copied someone else’s work. I sleep well at night.
That is the very reason I knew I had to get that bike back. It was the moral thing to do. How could I champion the value of honesty and private property unless I would pay the price to protect it?
So to find the bike, I harnessed my years of investigative experience. I knew my way around the underworld. I even owned a Tommy Gun once but somebody borrowed it and didn’t return it.
I called the mother of the kid who borrowed the bicycle. “That bad boy! I told him to behave,” she said.
Long story short, I traced the bike to a second-hand shop and bought it back. My credibility is intact. And the bike thief has been punished. His mother told him to go away.
I love it when justice works.