A loss of trust

Several roadside entrepreneurs that sell firewood to seasonal campers on Mount Desert Island have reported their cash boxes being rifled during recent weeks. Unfortunately that pattern of theft seems to be on the upswing in Maine.

One of the enduring charms of such operations, whether they sell firewood, vegetables, cut flowers or fresh eggs, is that they represent the very basics of our economic system. Those who are willing to work a little harder, a little longer, have the chance to make a little more money, to have something extra.

Because these stands cannot be profitable if someone has to be paid to sit there and collect money, most operate on the honor system. Customers are encouraged to leave cash in containers ranging from old coffee cans to small locked boxes. While just about every operation has experienced someone driving off without paying, instances of outright theft of an entire day’s proceeds, fortunately, have been rare.

When such thefts occur, much more than money is lost. In most cases, the amount of money involved is modest. The bigger sense of loss comes from the erosion of trust in our fellow human beings.

One of the reasons folks like living in Maine is our sense of community. We like to believe this is a place where we can trust our neighbors, all holding an abiding respect for hard work and for each other.

When some few sink so low as to rip off roadside stands, these dearly held assumptions commence to erode. That loss of trust, that injury to our own perception of who we are, hurts the most.

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