One Police Car With Flashing Lights Produces Several Rumors
Ed, my old neighbor from Saskatchewan, found himself the victim of a variety of rumors last week. Ed was coming home from Yorkton last Friday on the highway when he had to pull over to the side of the road. His dog Rex riding in the back of the truck cab had bitten into a big bag of dry dog food. It might have gone unnoticed until they got home, except for a sudden stop for some deer bounding across the highway. Ed’s sudden braking sent the open dog food bag showering the back of the cab with dry dog food everywhere. Ed pulled over to manage the dog food spill and rearrange things in the back so Rex could not eat dog food all the way home. While Ed was pulled over, a police cruiser pulled in behind Ed and engaged his flashers. The police officer was checking on Ed pulled over at the side of the road. Ed had put his truck flashers on, and the police officer was checking to see if Ed had a mechanical breakdown.
My old neighbor being a talker had a ten-minute chat with the friendly RCMP officer. In that, ten minutes by the side of the road half of Melville spotted Ed’s truck there with a police car behind him. When Ed went to coffee Saturday, he found himself the center of attention. Ed’s explanation of the police car received little enthusiasm. Some were disappointed that the rumor that he was getting a ticket for speeding was not true. It was the most popular rumor about him. The next most popular rumor was that he had a flat tire. The third most popular was that the police were searching his truck for drugs. The least popular rumor was that he was sick, having in fact chest pains. They disappeared enough for him to drive home and the police followed him to Melville to make sure he was okay. Ed felt that he had let folks down because everyone liked the rumors better than the truth.
Ed’s experience made me think of the commandment that we should not give false testimony against our neighbors. Sharing a rumor about someone may seem like harmless coffee talk. It is better to talk to the person the rumor is about than just to repeat the rumor without knowing if there is any truth to it. The rumors about Ed were harmless yet just the addition of another word or thought could have hurt his reputation. The most popular rumor could become harmful if it became; ‘Ed was at the side of the road with the police car because he was caught for speeding, again!’ The second rumor could become; ‘Ed had another flat tire – must be something wrong with his truck.’ The third rumor could become; ‘Ed must be growing more than canola on his farm if the police were searching his truck for drugs.’ The last rumor could become; ‘Ed has had chest pains before, but he won’t go to the doctor as he thinks a shot of whiskey will cure anything.’
Rumors can far too easily grow like weeds and hurt another’s reputation. Sadly we may prefer them to the truth.