Jack Rice - Blog

Jack Rice is a criminal defense trial lawyer who provides legal advice to those charged with crimes in Federal and Minnesota State courtrooms.


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What Would Wayne Do? (WWWD)

The other day, I was at the gym. I just walked out of the locker room in the basement of the place and there I saw it, lying on a seat of a chair. A nickel. No big deal, right? And for some reason, the rhyme popped into my head. You know the one, “Finder’s keepers, etc. etc. Anyway, I picked it up, bounced it in my hand, put it in my pocket and started walking away. And then something strange happened. Something else popped into my head that I hadn’t thought of in more than 30 years.

When I was nine and my brother Wayne was ten, we were walking home from a friend’s house. We were walking in a little subdivision. You know the kind, where the little off white houses butt up to one another and there are little postage size lawns out front.

Anyway, as we passed one house, I saw on the corner of the lawn right next to the sidewalk something that caught my eye so I reached down and picked it up. It was a five dollar bill rolled up in a ball. Please realize the significance. I was nine!

I remember saying, “Wow, I’m rich! This must be my lucky day!” I shouted to Wayne, “Check it out. Cool huh?” as I danced around the sidewalk like James Brown.

He looked at me and then at the five dollar bill that I was now smoothing out and holding like a newly discovered copy of the Gutenberg Bible. The one that I was more than prepared to claim as my own.

He simply said, “You can’t just keep that. You have to at least go up to that house and ask them if they lost it.” I was shocked. It never occurred to me that this was necessary but he said it in such a matter of fact way that I felt compelled to do just that.

As I thought of this memory, I felt the weight of the nickel in my pocket!

So we walked up to the front door and knocked. The whole way up the steps, all I did was pray that nobody would be home. Unfortunately, a woman answered. I looked at Wayne, at the woman and did what Wayne told me. I offered the woman the five dollar bill, saying we found it in the front yard. She smiled and said that it wasn’t hers. “I guess it’s your lucky day,” she said.

I looked at Wayne for his approval and he agreed. He even smiled a little.

I walked home with the five dollar bill in my pocket like I was the King of England. After all, five bucks is like a million to a little kid!

Anyway, all of this came back to me in a flash as I stood there thinking about the nickel in my pocket. And I did the only that I could, I turned around, walked back to the chair where I found the nickel, dug into my pocket, and put it back where I found it. After all, maybe some little kid dropped it by mistake. I remembered just how much any money
was worth to a little kid. Or maybe it was that last piece of change somebody needed to take the bus.

I then just walked away.

You know, I go through the papers, watch the news, even walk down the street, and I wonder what happened to ethics in the world today. I know that for some it is religion. For some, it is about swearing an oath to serve, for some it is different. For me, my touchstone is my brother. Sort of like those bracelets that were all the rage for a while What Would Jesus Do (WWJD). Well in my case, I guess WWWD is more applicable.

I don’t suggest that I always succeed or that I’m more ethical than the next guy. All I know is that when I really think about it, when I am in an ethical quandary, I think WWWD. Weird, huh?

Funny how things that happened years ago can come back out of nowhere and bite you in the ass. It also makes me wonder where a ten year old gets that kind of wisdom. All I know is that I wish that wisdom wasn’t so rare these days. Our politicians, our priests, our parents, ourselves could use what my ten year old brother forced upon me those decades ago.

Postscript to this story:

I always thought that there must be some cosmic justice out when we do things wrong, and maybe even when we do things right. Well, what just happened today confirms my belief. I was back at the gym and just arrived and was digging in my bag for my swimming goggles. They weren’t there. And for some reason, I thought . . . . maybe. I walked over to the hooks where I hang them after I swim. They were hanging there, exactly where I left them two days before.

You see. Some people still have ethical standards. Be it religion, sworn oaths or whatever. Apparently, all of the people who passed by my goggles did too.

So, while in a world of mine, mine, mine or where Paris Hilton seem to be the goals to which we all aspire, the quaint idea that ethics might mean something still has a place. Even if it is in the basement of a gym where one guy finds a nickel.

And I guess, maybe, one nickel at a time, we make the world a better place. So, if you still are searching for your ethical touchstone, if you can’t find yours, might I suggest WWWD?