I was glad to share Marlon’s story, and appreciated hearing back from so many of you how touched you were by his actions. I don’t know that much about Marlon, but I suspect he is a beautiful human being.
It turns out Marlon is not alone. Recently, Readers’ Digest wanted to learn how honest people were and to see if it differed by geography, so they “lost” 12 wallets in 16 cities around the world. Each wallet contained US$50 in local currency, as well as a name, business cards, a contact phone number and a family photo.
Lots of wallets came back, though the results varied widely by city. Helsinki, Finland blew everyone else out of the water with 11 wallets returned out of 12, followed by Mumbai at 9 of 12 wallets returned, New York and Budapest at 8 wallets returned, and Moscow and Amsterdam at 7 wallets returned. The biggest loser was Lisbon (1 wallet of 12 returned), Madrid (2 wallets), Prague (3 wallets), followed by Rio, Zurich and Bucharest all at 4 wallets. Globally, 90 out of 192 wallets were returned, 46% of the total.
So, if the data are to be believed, if you drop your wallet in a major city, there’s about a 50/50 chance you’ll get it back. Those feel like pretty good odds and a nice reflection on human nature. One does wonder a bit what’s going on in Portugal though.
Before we close, a quick reflection on storytelling.
Marlon is a real guy, that really was his photo, and that was a real amazing story that touched me a lot. The Readers’ Digest survey tells us that there were 90 other of those stories out there. And yet when I share this great information it it certainly doesn’t convey 90 times the amount of feeling or connection. In fact it doesn’t convey 1/90th the emotion of telling Marlon’s story.
I love numbers, data, and the power to use both to get to a deeper understanding that gets beyond narrative. But let’s not forget that the numbers themselves don’t make our points louder, indeed they often fail to amplify.
That said, I’m still just as thankful to Marlon for reminding me of how easy it is to do the right thing, and I’m heartened to know that he is not alone.
(Thanks, Ben, for sharing the Wallet Experiment story with me.)