The Honor System
Dear readers: What does the word "honor" mean? In the Ten Commandments, we are told to honor our mother and father. People talk about the honor system and feeling honored to receive an award. When we address a judge, we call him or her "Your Honor." Those who don't win a big prize receive an honorable mention. Whether the term is used to mean a privilege, a title of respect, or esteem, it is a term that we do not (or should not) take lightly.
When my family and I were in northern Michigan last weekend, we took a scenic drive through the country roads, enjoying the fall colors. We marveled at the beauty God brings us every autumn, and nowhere is it more apparent than "up north", as we Michiganders like to say. We happened upon a farm which was quiet and peaceful. The farmer had parked several trailers filled to the brim with pumpkins and gourds. A large, hand-painted sign said "Pumpkins!" We happily turned the minivan around to investigate. It would be fun to buy our Halloween pumpkins up north, a souvenir of sorts from our mini vacation. When we pulled in, it soon became apparent that no one was there. A quick scan of the area confirmed that we were the only people around. It was quite peaceful. I got out my camera and took a picture of the colorful trees nearby, below:
"Well," I said helplessly to my family, "Looks like the farmer isn't here."
"How are we going to pay for the pumpkins?" asked my youngest son.
I glanced around, wondering the same thing and thinking we'd have to leave, when my eyes fell on a sign that read, "PLEASE PAY ON THE HONOR SYSTEM. ALL PRICES ARE MARKED. I TRUST YOU. THANK YOU."
Sure enough, each trailer had a sign clearly indicating how much the pumpkins were. The gourds and smallest ones were 25 cents, the medium ones were $2, and the large ones were $3. Below the farmer's sign was a red metal box with a slit for depositing bills and coins. It was secured with a padlock.
"Well," my husband said, "There you go. Let's choose some pumpkins."
We happily went from trailer to trailer, choosing our favorite pumpkins and gourds.
When we were finished, my older son did the mental math and added up our purchases. I rummaged through my wallet, finding the change we needed and deposited our total into the metal box. As my money fell, I heard it hitting other change from prior customers who had used the honor system.
"I wonder where the farmer is?" my youngest son asked.
"He might live across the road," I said, motioning to the nearest little house I could see. "Anyway, it's too chilly for him to sit outside all day and wait for people to come, so he set up here using the honor system."
As we drove away, we talked about the honor system and how important it is. We talked about teachers in school who trust their students to use the honor system by not cheating on their homework and tests.
We talked about how great it is when people who don't even know each other can trust each other to do the right thing, and how, if we were in the farmer's shoes, how frustrating and disappointing it would be if someone cheated you. The farmer's message stuck in my head: "I TRUST YOU." The farmer trusts that people are not going to steal his pumpkins, driving off without paying. And he trusts that they are going to pay the amount they owe, and not a couple dollars less, just because no one is around to see.
But God sees.
We noticed another family turning their minivan around to buy pumpkins, too. We waved at each other and drove away, happy that the farmer was selling the pumpkins we needed, and happy to do the right thing, to honor him...and God.