stories about my father

How Hotel Keys Taught Me a Lesson About Honesty

During my early years, my father traveled extensively. There were times he would be away at two to three weeks at a time so it was just mom and I at home. He traveled all the continents and most major countries.

With all the traveling he did, he stayed in many hotels. As a way of remembering his travels, he started collecting hotel keys. Today, you get electronic cards, but when my father traveled, keys came in many shapes and sizes. They were creatively fashioned, and distinct in their colors and shapes. By the time I was a teenager, my father had literally hundreds of keys.

At some point, my father decided to hang the keys in our den. They hung on the edge of a long shelf which extended from one side of the room to the other. Each key had a story and my father could tell you where he was at the time and the type of trip it was.

After my father came to know the Lord, many things began to change in his life. Things that were once important to him became less important. He traveled less, spent more time with his family, and actively reached out to many non-profit organizations.

But there was something about these keys that didn't seem right with him. I knew it troubled him because one day, I came home from school and all the keys were gone. There wasn't one key left. When I asked about the missing keys, he shared that he felt convicted about having the keys in our home. At the time he took the keys, he didn't think of it this way, but now he realized that the keys were not his property; they were the hotels.

As a way of trying to make restitution, he made it a point to identity each key with their respective hotel. And as many as he could identify, he wrote a personal letter explaining what happened and returned the keys to them.

To this day, I will never forget this amazing response to my father's personal conviction. Some might find that taking the keys as a keepsake was a harmless act. In some ways, I agree with you. But then again, I believe it's these small, "harmless" behaviors which reveal our character - what's really deep down inside of us. My dad could have kept those keys. He could have passed them down to his family and shared the stories of his amazing travels. In fact, there's a good chance no one would ever realize the keys were missing. But from my father's perspective, God knew and that's all that mattered.

As much time it took for him to locate each hotel around the world and write a letter explaining what happened, it was more important to him that his character was cleaned of anything questionable. I firmly believe it was in these hidden, somewhat miniscule, decisions which laid the foundation for my father's ability to handle much larger issues in his life. He was known within the business community, our government, friends, and family as a man you could trust with anything, and I emphasize anything. I bet my father never imagined that I would, one day, remember this story. But I have. Why? Because now, whenever I'm faced with an ethical decision, I remember "the lesson of the keys."