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Rags to Riches

February 15, 2011

Did you see this story? It’s about an incident that occurred, involving two people, one of whom performed an invaluable service to the other. What struck me was not the plot of the (true) story, so much as the characters involved. The plot happens often enough: someone forgets something, it is returned, the forgetful person expresses gratitude. Happens every day. But the people to whom this happened possess an interesting mix of personal characteristics; here they are, listed at random:

African
Methodist
Immigrant
WASP (for lack of a better description)
Muslim
Convicted of fraud
Hard-working
Rich
Not rich

Now, if you’ve lived through the last 5-10 (or 30) years here in the U.S., you are probably familiar with the cast of villains in our “news” programs: immigrants are probably all illegal and entirely untrustworthy, Muslims want to kill us. Secondary storylines go to the poor who are lazy, and the rich deserve to be so because they work so hard. Some news consumers take those generalizations with a grain of salt but in my experience, a scary number of them actually believe these things with conviction.

So, if you take those characteristics from the list above and try to sort them into two people, one of whom you might want for a friend and the other you might not want for a friend, you would likely get stuck with the wrong guy from this story. The hero is the African Muslim immigrant cab-driver who is just doing his job and was ready to turn down the offered reward. The absent-minded one need not have been a creepy guy but, let’s face it, this one kind of is. Yet he is the one with $100,000 worth of stuff in a bag to lose. I say: America needs more Africans, Muslims, and immigrants who work hard and (many) fewer rich white guys who don’t appear to have legitimate jobs.

On an un-related note, I would like to think that, should I ever be in a position to forget $100,000 worth of stuff in a cab and it be returned to me by a total stranger who probably could have put it to better use than me, I would offer a more substantial token of appreciation than 1%.

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