Miles Kington: Secrets and lies - and why it's more fun to tell the truth

'You're talking rubbish, Jim had no friends! All he ever had were creditors! The only reason I'm sorry he's dead is that he owed me money and I'll never see it'
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The Independent Online

Today - two moral tales for our times!

1. Susan Howarth was 18 and in her last year at school. One day she was sitting at home, revising for her English A-Level, when the door bell rang and she went to the front door to find a man and a woman she didn't know.

"Hello, Susan," said the woman.

"You don't know us," said the man," but we've been looking for you for a long time."

"Who are you?" said Susan.

"We are your adopted parents," said the woman. "And we've found you at last, Susan!"

"What on earth are you talking about?" said Susan. "I already have two parents!"

"And are they happy?" said the woman.

"Yes," said Susan. "Well, no, not exactly. They're divorced. I live with my mother. She has remarried, and I can't say I like my step-father exactly, but..."

"You see?" said the woman. "But we are happily married, and we are prepared to take you back any time you like!"

"This is crazy!," said Susan. "I don't know who you are!"

"The thing is," said the man, "all children who are adopted know that somewhere they have a real birth father and mother, whom they often feel impelled to find even when perfectly happy with their adoptive parents. By the same token, children who grow up with their birth parents also have a pair of adopted parents they have never met, and they never think about them and never feel impelled to search them out."

"And it is the adopted parents who feel impelled to search out their lost adopted children," said the woman. "And now we have found you!"

"You're crazy," said Susan. "Wait here while I fetch my mother."

But when she came back with her mother, the man and woman had gone, together with several quite valuable ornaments.

Moral: You see, children, just because someone is not your mother or father, it doesn't necessarily mean you can trust them.

2. A man died one day, leaving two grown-up children and a widow, who was also grown-up, and they arranged a funeral (at horrific expense) at the local crematorium.

As part of the ceremony, the officiating clergyman agreed to make an address about the departed, although, as often happens, he had never in fact met the fellow.

"Jim," he started," was a man with many friends. I have been startled by the number of people who have come forward and told me how sorry they are that he has died. A man with so many friends as Jim could count himself lucky..."

At that moment, much to the clergyman's amazement, a man stood up in the congregation and started shouting.

"You're talking rubbish! He had no friends! All he ever had were creditors! The only reason I'm sorry he's dead is that he owed me money and I'll never see it now!"

"He owed us all money!" came another cry. "He was a bastard!," shouted a third man, "and he let us all down!"

"And another thing!," shouted a fourth man. "He wasn't called Jim. Nobody called him Jim. He was Jimmy!"

"Aye!," shouted a fifth. "Dirty Jimmy! God rot him!"

There was a general laugh.

Then everyone fell silent for the clergyman to continue. After a moment's thought he did so.

"Jimmy was a man whose passing it is hard to mourn," he said. "By general agreement he was one of the most unpleasant people whom God has thought fit to inflict on us..."

There was a general cheer and cries of "More!", during which the clergyman avoided the widow's eye, though if he had glanced in her direction he would have seen she was smiling to herself in agreement.

Moral: Honesty is not only the best policy, it can sometimes be more fun.

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