Thank you for your decency

When the Managing Editor of the UVU Review lost her engagement ring last month, the kindness extended to her was moving. But she wonders, how far will people allow their kindness to extend when people are different? She shares her story here.

Two and a half weeks ago, I got married to the love of my life. Expounding on the details would be unprofessional and uninteresting, and reliving that happy day is not my point anyway.

Rather, the point is just how wonderful and decent people really can be, and maybe how much farther we have to go.

Though I lost my one-of-a-kind antique engagement ring less than a month before the wedding, I was able to wear that ring at the ceremony because of the honesty of a fellow student. And I was able to weather what I thought was the permanent loss of a tremendously sentimental item because of the kindness and generosity of countless others.

You may have seen the “Lost” flyers I posted, or the ad in this newspaper my friend designed for me. You may have seen me, a sobbing mess, and my then-fiancée, composed and resolute, scouring the lawn outside the PE building for a glimmer of white gold. You may have seen the growing and diverse group of people crouched over, eyes to the ground, doing the same. You may have even been one of them.

The ring vanished from my pocket somewhere between the PE building and the Student Center after I took it off to put lotion on my hands. It was gone for four days, during which my sister, my now-husband and I searched frantically for hours and hours on end. While we searched, dozens of people joined us and countless others offered their thoughts and prayers that we would find it.

The fact that these strangers volunteered their time and cast aside their reservations to help and encourage someone they didn’t know was, for lack of a better word, heartwarming.

Even amid my agony of self-pity, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed with gratitude for others’ thoughtfulness.

And it was pure thoughtfulness. There could be no ulterior motives, no reason for helping us other than genuine concern. In those four days, I was reminded that people can not only be decent, but spectacular human beings.

And also, I found, uncompromisingly honest. While my husband was making one sweep after another with a rented metal detector at the campus, I was in line at the hardware store buying a trowel to dig with, just in case. As I slouched through the check stand line, my phone rang. Not capable of handling disappointment, I steeled myself against the hope that it was the call I had been waiting for all week.

But it was that call. The woman on the other end asked if I had lost an engagement ring and could I meet her husband in American Fork to pick it up? I stuttered an incredulous yes.

As quickly as we could, my husband and I drove to American Fork and met the man who had found my ring (on the steps to the second floor of the Student Center, just minutes after I lost it, it turns out). Not only did he hand it over without hesitation, he also refused the reward we offered.

Selling the ring could have paid his tuition that semester. It could have paid their rent or myriad other expenses. As so many others had done that week, this student reminded me that people can be decent and they can be wonderful. Every time I look at my left hand, I remember the honesty that brought the ring back and the generosity that made the temporary loss easier.

But what would this same loss have looked like for someone else, someone unlike me? What if I had been searching for a ring from a same-sex partner? If I didn’t dress conservatively or look like the nice local girl who “deserves” to be getting married? If I didn’t speak English? Would strangers have scoured the lawn for a precious item on the behalf of an outsider?
Maybe so, maybe not. Based on what I experienced, I would like to think that someone unlike me would have received just as much help and concern. But it’s easy for many to think of Utah Valley as intolerant and bigoted, because, sadly, this has been their experience.

Either way, what matters is that the students of UVU, at least, are clearly capable of behaving in truly compassionate and altruistic ways, and it’s crucial to show that compassion to as many people as possible. That means everyone.

One Response to "Thank you for your decency"

  1. Pam Despain   April 19, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    I am writing in regards to the article published in the April 11 UVU Review titled “Thank You for Your Decency”.
    I enjoyed the article, reading about the people who saw a need and stepped in to help. When I got to the end, I was disappointed to see that all the service rendered so willingly couldn’t just be taken at face value. I see it more and more in society, that we look past the good in people to question their motives, pre-judge them and analyze what they would have done…if…We need to see the genuine goodness in people, and yes there is a lot of good right here in Utah County. See the good…be the good. Hooray to those who do it every day. I don’t care if you publish this or not, I just wanted the person who wrote the article to know how negative she sounded. Thanks. Pam Despain

    Reply

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