Character Lost and Found

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Michael Voss
  • Air University Public Affairs
If you know me personally, you know there are times I question character and the ways people treat each other.

I mean, there are signs all over that people are treating others with less and less respect and compassion. The news is often full of examples.

Within the last few weeks alone, we had the Boston Marathon bombing; two teenage girls committed suicide after being raped then tormented by classmates; and even recent reports from within the military stated that one in five servicemembers are victims of assault.

True, not all cases of recent events are this extreme, but even in our daily lives there are signs that life has changed. It makes me wonder if there are still good people?

A few weeks ago, I posted on my Facebook an instance that even made me think about my own character.

While driving home from work, a car in front of me darted into the other lane to avoid the stalled car in front of them. Maybe it ran out of gas, who knows, and that is the point. As I switched lanes and continued on my way home, I thought, "Man, someone should stop and help this person push their car out of the road."

As I continued on my way, I began to feel bad that I was not that someone.

Not that I would change that decision, though. It just is not smart to stop and help someone you do not know. That is how people are robbed, but how sad is that. It made me feel bad about the way I view the world we live in today, and my attitude toward it.

As luck would have it, however, my faith in people's character would soon be found.

As if it were karma, a couple days after the stalled car incident, I lost a $400 watch and my wedding ring. After days of searching here and there, the YMCA, the cars and the house, I gave into the fact it was probably gone.

It was difficult to tell my wife, who constantly reminded me to be careful about taking them off.

"If you keep leaving them (the watch and ring), you're going to forget them and someone is going to pick them up and they will be gone," she would tell me.

In this case, though, I hated to hear it because she would be right. I began to come to grips with the fact that I had left them somewhere. More than likely, someone else was either now wearing my jewelry or collecting money from a pawnshop for the ring, which is a replica of my father's.

Then, on a whim, I stopped at the base gym and asked if they had a lost and found box, which they did.

When I looked in the boxes where valuables are stored while waiting for their owners to retrieve them, I began thinking maybe, just maybe, there was hope. Maybe there is hope not only for me finding my things, but for people being nice enough and full of character to have turned them in.

As I rummaged through the various other watches, keys and earrings, I noticed a silver watch, and sure enough, it was mine.

My watch and wedding ring were found. However, for me, finding them meant more than simply finding my stuff. I found my hope in people's character.

Obviously, someone at the gym found the watch and ring, and they had the opportunity to pocket them. However, that person and countless others who had found items had enough character to turn them in to the front desk, as proven by the many other returned items in those plastic boxes.

I would like to think that an Airman--uniformed, civilian or retiree--at the gym saw the items and turned them in, which speaks volumes about the character of Air Force people.

While I am not naïve enough to believe everyone in the world is good, I do believe I found some people do still have character, and though I thought it was lost, for me, it was found.