Nothing Takes the Place of Honesty

Did you hear the story of 11-year-old Nate who amazingly shot a three inch hockey puck through a three and a half inch opening from 89 feet out? Did you hear how the whole crowd stood to their feet and whooped and hollered, but not for Nate?

That's right; they were cheering for Nate's twin brother Nick who was outside the arena, but whom they all assumed had just shot that amazing shot worth a whopping $50,000.

When Pat Smith arrived at the arena with his twin boys and bought three raffle tickets for a chance to take that shot, he had no real hopes that he or his boys would be called forward for the shot. But, just minutes after Nick had left the arena to play around outside, his name was called. Stunned, Pat sent Nate forth to take the shot for his brother. After all, the chances of the kid getting that little puck into that little hole were miniscule.

But that's exactly what Nate did. He swung the hockey stick like a seasoned pro and zoomed the puck right into that small opening. The crowd roared and thoughts of paying for his boys' education played like fireworks through the dad's mind. Everyone was celebrating!

For a little while at least.

Here's what I read in the Bible this morning. I almost wonder if Pat Smith of Owatonna, Minnesota, didn't read the same passage as he lay his happy head down on his pillow that blissful night.

Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man,
But afterward his mouth will be filled with gravel.
Proverbs 20:17

I don't know if Pat Smith's mouth felt like it was filled with gravel the next morning or not, but whether it was stones in the mouth, a sick feeling in his gut, or just a convicted conscience, the dad picked up the phone and made an amazing phone call. In fact, I daresay his phone call was more amazing than his son's hockey shot.

Mr. Smith called the contest officials and admitted that Nate, not Nick, had taken the winning shot. Nick's name had been called, but Nate had stepped onto the ice. And even when they signed the legal documents after all the hoopla, Mr. Smith had "lied" about which son had taken the shot. Harmless enough right? It's all in the family, after all.

But Mr. Smith knew that he and his boys needed to do the right thing. He admitted the fraud and turned the matter back over to the contest officials. As it stands right now, it looks like the insurance company that funded the winnings will not be paying the Smiths a dime. While many people think they should, I see no reason for such gregarious generosity. I certainly applaud Mr. Smith's honesty. That's what this blog post is all about. But I don't think the insurance company is under any obligation to hand over such a large sum of money to reward honesty. Now if all us folks out here want to get together and send in our nickels and dimes to fund the boys' college funds, that's a different matter. 

And whether we collect any money for this family or not, we do owe Mr. Smith a round of applause. I'm thankful for a bright light of honesty in a dim world of dishonesty. In fact, when I just visited the Good Morning America web site to research this story a little before writing about it, I noticed a poll about whether or not the boy should keep the money or not. The poll seemed to be asking not just if the insurance company should pay out, but if the family should have come forward with the truth or not. I clicked my answer: "No, the brother who took the shot wasn't the brother that entered the contest." Then I waited to see where my response fell among the others. I was dismayed to see that 3,791 people felt he should have kept mum about the deception, while only 2,771 agreed with me that the father did the right thing. I'm stunned.

But then again, what would I have done? I'm not so sure. I'm totally proud of Mr. Smith's response, but with a $50,000 college fund on the table I'm not totally sure I would have done the same thing. I'd like to think I would. But who knows? 

I guess the only way to really know what I would have done would be to add up all the "little" opportunities I have for honesty/dishonesty and gauge my answer based on the statistics. Quite honestly, I'm a little afraid to even do that. 

What do you think? Did Mr. Smith do the right thing? Did he do what you would have done? Or would you have sent the wrong twin onto the ice to begin with? I'd love to know!