The waitress set down the cup of coffee and I poured cream into the hot, black liquid while quietly reflecting, pondering something.
“Why do people lie?” I asked Tink.
We know a couple of people who, as Daddy would say, “the truth’s not in them.” They lie about many things, big and small, consequential and not consequential. And if you have them pinned against the wall with absolute evidence, they will lie about the lies. It’s baffling.
Tink shrugged and carefully considered his answer before replying.
“Being honorable and honest is learned,” he said. “It isn’t born in us. We’re taught those principles.”
I shook my head, again thoughtfully, and pointed out one of the persons was raised by honorable parents and has siblings who practice honesty. So that, I said, couldn’t be ... well, it couldn’t be the truth.
Daddy used to say a man who’ll lie to you will steal from you. And I have found those to be words of everlasting truth. After all, a lie and a theft are both children of dishonesty.
A few months ago, I was at a speaking engagement in Florida where dinner was being served. My purse, which was held together with one snap in the middle that left the sides open, was sitting on a chair. I was standing across the room in conversation when I noticed a sudden flurry of activity around my purse. An old woman, her face hard and cracked, watched as a young woman grabbed napkins and rushed around. I hurried over.
“I’m sorry. Did I leave my purse in the wrong place?” I asked.
The young woman turned to me.
“No, no, it’s all right,” she said. “She just bumped into the chair and spilled some tea.”
The old woman glowered at me.
“We weren’t trying to get into your purse!” she snapped. Her eyes narrowed. “It just spilled on the floor.”
This, I quickly discovered, wasn’t true. My purse had almost an inch of tea — not sweet tea, mind you — in it and it was quite a mess.
“Goodness!” I declared as I began pulling out items. “It’s filled with tea.”
The woman plopped down on a chair and continued to act ugly.
“No, it is not,” she said. “I barely spilled any tea and it did not go into your purse.”
The young woman, who could see differently, looked at me and smiled sadly. Neither of us said another word. We just cleaned it up while the old woman defiantly watched us.
Remarkable. It was a simple accident. Why lie about it? Why deny how much had been spilled?
A few weeks later, Tink was home working on a script and I was at a beauty appointment when we received urgent calls from a friend who was staying in Mama’s house. Our pasture sprawls across the creek from our house to Mama’s so there are three gates, two on Mama’s side of the creek.
“The horses are out!” she screamed breathlessly into the phone. “We’re chasing them now.”
Trust me: This is not a call you want to get. By God’s grace, the horses galloped up the road, crossed a major highway but never came close to danger. Tink charged into action while my brother-in-law, Rodney, and nephew, Rod, rode to the rescue. By the time I arrived, the wayward creatures were back safe in the pasture, though Rodney had cut his finger somehow.
Bowen, a freckled-faced, redheaded 8-year-old, approached me timidly.
“Miss Ronda,” she said. “I think I left the gate open. I’m sorry.”
It was so brave. Intensely admirable. I knelt down, hugged her, then looked her in the eyes.
“You are so courageous,” I told her. “Always tell the truth even in times like this when it isn’t easy. That’s the mark of an honorable person and that’s what you want to be.”
The truth isn’t always pretty. Or easy. But it certainly gives respect to those who tell it.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of several books, including “There’s A Better Day A-Comin’.” Sign up for her newsletter at www.rondarich.com. Her column appears Tuesdays and on gainesvilletimes.com/ronda.