Character Strength and [Archives:1997/46/Viewpoint]

November 17 1997

Personal Integrity
As an economist, I have been taught that human resource development is a basic prerequisite for socio-economic development. The traditional translation of that is good education and adequate health care, etc. There are, however, many add ones. I would like to focus on character strength and integrity as essential elements in human beings. I will use personal encounters from my travels to illustrate.
1. The Turkish Bellboy:
A couple of months ago, I was in Istanbul. As I was winding up my trip, I went to the old bazar to buy a few things. Among the things I bought were a couple of expensive porcelain vases for my wife. As my taxi drove to the front entrance of my hotel, the Renaissance Polat Istanbul Hotel, I asked one of the young bellboys to carry my things to my room. I failed to alert him to the fragile nature of the contents. About twenty minutes later, the young bellboy knocked on the door of my room. “Do you speak English, Sir?” I answered I did. “I want to bring in your things, but I want to tell you that due to negligence on my part, I broke one of the vases. If you will still be with us till tomorrow, I will replace it. If you are leaving sooner, tell me the price, and I will pay you.” I looked at the young lad with extreme pleasure and respect. My vase is broken, so what. Look at this poor bellboy, he could have simply brought in the things without mentioning the damage, which I would have discovered too late. He could have claimed that he found it broken in the trunk of the taxi. But No! He told me the truth and was willing to take responsibility. He was willing to pay for it from his US$ 90 salary. I called up the manager of the hotel to congratulate him on such reliable and responsible people, even at the level of bellboys.
2. My Chinese Escort:
During a recent visit to China, I was given an escort who speaks Arabic whose monthly salary was around US$130 per month. He spent about a week running around with me from one city to another, and from place to another. He was generous and extremely helpful. He was implementing my program, as I wanted it. He did not have special errands of his own. He went out of his way to make my trip a success. At the end of the journey, it was time to say good-bye. I told him I was extremely grateful, and that I did not have time to buy him a ‘gift’ to show my appreciation. Therefore, I decided to give him some money to buy a gift for himself by offering to pay him his salary of a few months. With extreme politeness, he refused to take the money. His sentence still rings in my ear. “Sir, I was just doing my job. I am happy your trip was successful. It was a pleasure to accompany you. My gift is for you tell the world about China.”
I come across dozens and dozens of such examples.Nations are built with people who are upright, who have self-esteem, and who do not bow to a few dollars. Citizens with personal integrity and character strength build nations. That is why I feel that Turkey and China and similar countries will inevitably rise to an important place in the world community. Nations that with corrupt and weak citizens cannot expect to claim an important world role. By that yardstick, Yemen is doomed for a long time.

By: Pro. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf Editor-in-Chief and Publisher