Listening is an art. The Listener hears marvelous life stories. Some are happy. Some are sad. And some just are. What kind of story is this one? You decide. It is about Integrity.
Once upon a time (time). The Listener had been watching this old man a long time. The old man was interesting because of his huge talent. He was gifted in working with wood. He could make anything out of wood – from musical instruments to a roof for a house. And he could add an artistic touch to his work making it special.
The old man also had a huge flaw. He was imprisoned in a miserable cycle. When the ol’ pahpi began a new carpentry project, he worked very hard until he got paid. From the job site he went directly to the cane juice shop to buy the first “snap” of – “the love of his life.” The Listener was not the only one watching the old man. Suddenly, the pahpi had many friends to share his drink and “good conversation.” They would make sure he got very drunk, wait until he fell down, and then take the rest of his money. He could not return to work to either complete his project or begin a new one until he had recovered enough to do the work. Then, as soon as he was able, he’d start working again, get paid, get drunk, get robbed, get sick…. He was caught in the identical cycle again and again.
It was taking longer and longer for the old man to recover from these bouts and his physical condition became weaker as time went on. The community had summoned his children on many occasions and they would come. His children talked, pleaded and begged the old man to stop living alone and come to live with them. They worried for his health and safety. When he continually refused, they were finally forced to accept his decision. He was very quick to anger, belligerent and even abusive when he was into his cane juice. When sober, he would respond to pleas for him to stop drinking by saying,”I hear!”
One day there was an interruption in this, otherwise, unchanging cycle of destruction. The “eyeball man” (supervisor) at the old carpenter’s work site decided to watch the man after he had paid him. He felt disgust mingled with pity for this elder. It was common knowledge throughout the community how the old man was continually robbed. And so the “eyeball man” quietly followed him. Because of the unexpected presence of the supervisor, only one man was brave enough to join the old man pretending to want to help him. When the old man drank his cane juice, was too drunk to walk, and fell down, the “eyeball man” refused to let the fake friend help and sent the phony away. Instead, he, himself helped the old man to his house where the drunkard passed out. The “eyeball man” then took the man’s wallet with the money in it. When the old carpenter finally recovered, he returned to complete the project he had begun. Nothing was said about the money.
Liberians often say, “Don’t ask a Liberian to hold money for you. They will always eat it”.
The carpenter’s next work project was a very interesting one. At one time, the carpenter owned all his own tools and had a carpentry shop, but now he didn’t even have his own saw and had been begging the owner of the work site to buy him one. The old man was told that he would get the new saw if he completed the next project: He must train two young men in basic carpentry skills. Oh, the owner had begged him to take on an apprentice many times. He always refused, but when he was promised the new saw, he finally agreed. How shocked and delighted he was when he completed the training sessions, got his new saw, AND his wallet with the money he thought was stolen!
We need more men and women in Liberia like The Eyeball Man – men and women of Integrity. Then we will say, “You can usually trust a Liberian to hold money for you. Liberians don’t believe in eating other people’s money”.