When you hate pocket change as much as I do, a small fortune can accumulate in the cup on the dresser. So, every once in a while, when my cup runneth over, I separate the coins into quarters, dimes and nickels and use them to buy entertainment.
For instance, I brought four family members to the movies this summer using twenty-three dollars in quarters.
“You’re kidding,” said the man in the booth.
“It’s all there,” I assured him. “Trust me!”
Eying the line behind me, he motioned me into the theatre with a gesture conveying more annoyance than trust.
However, I suppose he wasn’t so much questioning my honesty as much as he was reliving those experiences he’d had with less honest folks.
And given the fact that we keep hearing stories of those who violate trust, it has becomes easier, some would say mandatory, for us to distrust others.
In the face of such bombardment — or out of our own personal history — how do we continue to relate to people? Do we automatically suspect everyone of being a possible huckster or fiend?
For instance, in my job as a pediatric hospital chaplain, I’ve known some fallout from the priest scandal. I’m forever careful to be sure that my work with children is carried out in the presence of witnesses. I’d like to be able to dismiss all worries with the proclamation, “Trust me, I’m a chaplain.” But because of what happened with the Catholic priesthood, trust has become a rare quantity.
Another example is in my role as a columnist. I’d like to ask my readers to – “Just, trust me!” But because of people like New York Times reporter Jayson Blair and the writers who preceded him – Cooke, Barnicle, Smith and Glass – my editors at Gannett (the parent corporation for this newspaper) are now challenging me to use real names in my columns. While my columns have always been truthful, my editors are now asking that they be completely factual – real names, exact quotes.
This atmosphere of mistrust has become most evident in everyday life as we travel through airports. My temptation at these checkpoints is to flash my military ID or toss my seminary diploma on the table. I’d dare them to, “Question that!” But like most of you, I’m still taking off my shoes and filling a tray with my pocket fuzz.
So, it’s occurred to me that, as surely as the 9/11 hijackers vaporized thousands, they also managed to equalize millions of us to the point that we may never be trusted again at an airport security checkpoint
Now, as I live my daily life, I live with the consequences of this new atmosphere of mistrust. Because a tiny percentage of journalists are guilty of flagrant malpractice, my work is subject to closer scrutiny. Because of a small percentage of clergy, my work as a pediatric chaplain has become more subject to surveillance. And because of the hijackers, I’m constantly subject to search.
Trust is surely a different commodity in the post 9/11 world. I know I shouldn’t take it personally. It’s not like people are really suspecting me of being a lying, perverted, knife-toting chaplain. But I do know that as long as people live, there will always be an equal potential to either explore new heights of human potential or map the depths of cruelty and deceit.
As we came out of the movie theater, my wife commented, “I’ll bet they love taking the time to count them.”
“They didn’t count it. They trusted me.”
That’s when she gave me that look that says “They obviously haven’t seen you help your daughters with their math homework!”
“Hey,” I retorted, “the guy’s lucky I didn’t give him by cup full of dimes. I’m saving those for Starbucks.”