May integrity and honesty protect me, Lord, for I put my trust in You. Psalm 25:21
honesty, reliability, veracity, uprightness
worthiness, decency, respectability
Earlier this week I popped over to my new and favourite spaza shop down the road. I first visited this shop when I was searching for a sewing kit. You can read about this here, if you wish. This particular evening he had a number of customers before me, one who kept scrimmaging in the freezer, lifting an item, querying the price and replacing it again.
Eventually it was my turn and I placed my order of one fresh fruit juice and a small tub of vanilla ice cream. The price was SDG2 which is less than one US$. I paid him with SDG5 and at that moment a women leant across me and asked him for an item. He gave me my change, and turned to serve her as I left. I stopped off at the spaza shop just opposite our apartment building to buy a pack of fresh pitas. As I opened my purse, I saw that I had an extra note. Call me crazy but I am always aware of the notes and amounts in my purse at any given time. Here in Khartoum I am extra concious of the denominations as I'm still trying to get used to the currency. Without buying anything at Mohamed's shop, I turned and walked back to the first shop. The owner was serving yet another picky customer. When she left, I said to him, "I paid you with SDG5 and you gave me SDG8 change." He clapped his hand to his forehead and when I placed the 5 pound note on the counter, he thanked me most profusely.
The shop owner might or might not have remembered overchanging me that day. Whichever way, he couldn't have done anything about it. But I would have remembered had I not gone back with the extra money. Acting on this is called integrity.
This brings me to a very sad point in today's post. About a person who lacks integrity. A week ago I posted about the Khartoum cats , which you can read about here. For the past ten days, my husband and I have been feeding three stray cats. One is here in our courtyard. The other two are in the city in two different locations. One of these had two kittens about three weeks ago; one kitten survived. The mother cat and kitten belong to the shop owner where we buy our bottled water. I bought tuna from his shop and was feeding the cat every second day while leaving a tin (and my can opener) for him to feed it on the days I did not get there. My husband popped in there on Thursday to buy our water and was taken to see the cat behind the fridge. He came home and reported that the kitten, whose eyes were open, looked like a little slug it was so well fed. The shop owner fed the mother cat while he was there.
On Friday we stopped there and I went into the shop clutching the customary bottle of milk. I found it strange that the owner didn't seem his effusive self when I greeted him. There was a youngster in the shop who greeted me in English. As I walked to the back of the shop to check on the cat, this lad followed me. Expecting to see the mother cat and her kitten in the nest behind the fridges I was surprised to see it was empty. I turned back to the youngster and the shopowner who'd joined us at the back, and asked where the cat was. The young boy told me that it had left. The owner assures me that he had searched for it but the cat was there last night and gone this morning. Trying to think straight after receiving this shock, I couldn't believe that a mother cat, who was safe, being fed and pampered, would pick her kitten up and walk out of the shop.
I walked back to the counter where the shop owner had returned to serve a customer and said I would leave one tin of tuna and my can opener. If he managed to find the cat, to please feed her and re-install her in her nest. Always before, whenever I spoke to this young man, he'd look at me with an open and friendly expression. Yesterday however, he could hardly face me while we were talking and when he did lift his eyes, I noticed a closed expression on his face.
I left the shop feeling utterly dejected. When I told my husband that the cat and kitten was missing, he immediately said that the shop owner had sold it. Until then I'd not considered this but now it made sense. I am going back today and if the cat is not in the shop, I will ask the shopowner for my paid-up-front tin of tuna and can opener. I'm trying not to dwell on the fact that the poor mother cat, who literally tasted a luxurious life for the past ten days and is perhaps starving again tonight.
The cat at the vegetable stalls continues to thrive. It had a sore eye, so we bought eye ointment, and after cleaning both eyes with cotton wool soaked in water, I managed to massage a little ointment into the eye. The Calico Cat waits downstairs in our courtyard in the morning as well as at night now. My husband says she is pregnant, and on closer inspection I realise he may be right.