Honestly, the lesson learned was not in the game plan for this field trip. This April 30th, 1966 educational trip was planned in detail. Stops included the airport, zoo, museum, and Fort Necessity. When it was time to make their departure for the two and a half hour trip back, there was a small, dime-sized dilemma. The restrooms required the payment of one dime per customer. Into the slot, the teacher Ruth put her first dime. To her dismay, she didn’t have enough dimes to allow her students to each have a turn.
When you’re on a field trip and you’ve got more than two hours to travel home, you take everyone to the bathroom before you head home. When there’s no bathroom on the bus, you don’t leave until everyone has been to the bathroom!
Ever a woman of adaptation, she instructed her students to keep the door from closing after each visit and kept tabs on how many dimes short she was for this visit. Many people would have just visited the Pittsburgh Zoo, held open the door to the stalls and forgotten about it. Not Ruth. Not this teacher.
She kept careful count, and upon her return back home, she mailed a check for the missing dimes. Yes indeed. She signed that check for $1.00 and put it into an envelope with a five-cent postage stamp. In her letter, she explained to the Pittsburgh Airport Authority what had happened, why she was sending the check and thanked them for their services.
By the tenth of May, Yoder School received recognition by several Pittsburgh newspapers and the associated press nationwide. Why? Her honesty brought the reviews.
Did the ten dimes really matter? Probably not, because that check was never cashed by the Pittsburgh Airport. What mattered then? Her honesty.
Honesty implies a refusal to lie, steal, or deceive in any way. That’s what Ruth E. Yoder did. She refused to lie, steal, or deceive in any way.
More importantly than having the Pittsburgh Airport Authority find out about her honesty was the fact that she modeled this for her students. She explained to the students that she would send the money later since she didn’t have enough dimes that day. It was no surprise to them, for this is who she was. This story has been told for over fifty years. The significance in the telling is her honesty. Who wouldn’t want their children to have a teacher like this?!
In our society, so many folks think nothing of telling a white lie or exaggerating a little. Employees don’t feel guilty about having someone else punch the time clock for them if they’re going to be late getting to work. There are so many ways to be dishonest and tell a lie. Who wouldn’t want to have an employee like Ruth E. Yoder?
I’m grateful there are folks around who practice this principle. What is sad is that this action is so rare that people take note – and it makes the paper. This kind of honesty should be a way of life for all of us. Certainly, we ought to applaud honesty. Yet when it’s a rarity instead of the norm, we’re in a sad state.
What does it take for you to refuse to tell a lie? How hard is it to always tell the truth? Does honesty really matter if no one else is watching or others won’t find out?
Fifty years later, her students still remember.