Danny Graves' Wallet
Last week, many newspapers including USA Today felt this story was newsworthy: Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Danny Graves lost his wallet, which contained his credit cards, drivers' license, and $1400 in cash. The man who cleaned the Reds buds found the wallet, and returned it promptly, cash included.
It is a wonder the story wasn't featured on "Believe It Or Not!"
This should not be the stuff of an "Ethics Hero" award. The wallet included identification; not returning it and its contents to Graves would be an act of theft. Nevertheless, Graves pronounced himself "flabbergasted," and vowed to reward his savior. "It's just an amazing story."
Let us fervently hope that it is not. Indeed, the degree of Graves' professed shock marks him as either unusually cynical about his fellow man or someone who wouldn't return a wallet himself. This is Ethics 101, and the honest gentleman who found the wallet should not be regarded as a saint, a freak, or a sucker. He did the right thing, and there was no controversy about what the right thing was. He did not suffer for his actions, and he clearly treated the Reds pitcher exactly as he himself would want to be treated if he lost his wallet. Surrounding his actions with hoopla and superlatives sends the message that basic ethical principles are somehow achievable by only a remarkable few of sterling character. If this is how we really feel, then the ethics crisis is worse than we thought.
It all boils down to arithmetic. Having lost his wallet, was Graves more likely to recover it unraided or not? Clearly he and USA Today believed that "not" was the answer, meaning that they are convinced that more than half of the population is poised to commit a felony when the opportunity presents itself. The story's happy ending is to be celebrated, not because doing such a basic ethical act is newsworthy and not because Graves got his wallet back, but because it is evidence, though inconclusive, that ethical Americans are still in the majority.