Monday, February 09, 2009

Honesty Coffee Shop (Philippines) ... some Reflections

(Credit: OutofTownBlog)

Imagine a coffee ship with no staff, no locks and no security devices except the plain conscience of an honest heart. Called "Honesty Coffee Shop," this tourist sensation in Ivana in the Philippines is becoming a hit not only with the locals but with foreigners as well. The idea is simple. Anyone who patronizes the coffee shop, simply needs to refer to a standard price list inside the shop and pay for whatever they use or consume. In a town where the mayor reports 'zero crime rate,' it reflects the kind of culture that the town supports.

Personal Experience
I remember a couple of years ago when I was traveling in the Melbourne countryside in Australia. Along the way, there was a roadside fruit stall with fruits, a basket but no one was there to man it. Designed like a self-service kiosk, there is a price list displayed prominently on the side, detailing the price of each fruit. We bought some and left a tip as well. The fruits were not only sweet and juicy, the whole experience left a great feeling of being trusted to be fair. Kudos to the owners, even though I felt that part of the reasons for the self-service kiosk is to cut down costs of manning the stall. The owners might have figured out that it is more expensive to put a human person at the stall when he/she could have done something else more productive, like watering or tending the plantation. At that time, I have heard that some unscrupulous visitors at some other similar stalls, not only did not pay for the fruits but took all the money as well!

When I was spending the New Year in Seattle, I encountered a situation where honesty is to be learned and cultivated. Newspaper bins are self-service, based on a single payment for a single copy of each newspaper. If we observe the system, it is practically possible for one to pay one time, but carry out the whole stack of papers away, before closing the door of the bin. Fortunately, these cases are rare. My kids were fiddling away with some of the bin doors out of curiosity. There was one bin in which the door was not firmly closed. Excitedly, my kids took out a copy of USAToday and showed me, telling me that it costs nothing! I was thrilled initially, but my smile gradually turns into a frown when I realize that it is an important teaching moment for all. I took out my coin purse, removed 5 quarters and insisted that they be put back into a USAToday newspaper bin. That is my way of telling my children that nothing is for free. We may think that the faulty system allows us to take things for free, but God is always watching. I can sense my kids feeling a little let-down for they thought that they can help the family save some money. I want them to learn that even though we are not rich, where daddy is still a student, we should not take advantage of others. It has been a personal financial sacrifice for me to study theology and teach the Bible to people in church and Christian communities. Just yesterday, I read about my ex-colleagues climbing an even higher level of their organization, with better pay and benefits. For a moment, I was lamenting on thoughts like:
  • "O! I could have been Vice-President by now."
  • "My annual pay should be 6-digits......"
  • "I should have been invited to a director position in one of those charity places."
I told myself to snap out of it. Life is not measured in terms of dollars and sense. A life in Christ is a life of faith. I need to trust God to provide for me and my family's daily needs as I faithfully serve God where I am.

Heaven will certainly be full of honesty and righteousness. People will be free to roam without worry of harm. They trust one another and under the lordship of their heavenly father, they choose to behave in a manner that glorifies God, bring neighborly love one to another. Perhaps, we can learn from the owners of the Honesty Coffee Shop, that not only honesty is the best policy, it is the policy that will bring out the best in people. Some say it may trigger greed and the worse out of unrepentant hearts. Again, let us not judge people for God is the ultimate judge. More pictures can be seen from the links below.


1) Out of Town Blog
2) Asia1

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