When reading newspapers lately, there is a lot of talk about crime increasing in Lebanon. Kidnappings have been on the headlines for the past month or so, armed robberies are occurring and there is definitely a sense of mistrust in the air with all the newcomers from Syria, whom some stereotype as thieves.
I think this is a true pity, us buying into the idea that Lebanon has become a crime-ridden place. I will not deny these incidents are happening, nor that one should be careful and use common sense to avoid unsafe situations. But my experience in Lebanon has been so far, in the past 2.5 years, and more so recently, that Lebanese are some of the most honest people I have met.
And as this statement might raise some eyebrows, I would like to share with you 2 recent incidents that happened in the past couple of weeks.
Some friends organized a party at my place recently and one of them went to the corner store to buy water. As he was leaving my house after the party was over, he realized he didn't have his wallet. We looked everywhere in the house and couldn't find it. After reflecting some time, he realized the last time he saw it was at the corner store when he paid for the water. We looked in the street but couldn't find it. The next morning, my husband went to the store, and the storeowner, a 70 year old man who doesn't make more than 40 dollars a day in his store, handed him back the wallet intact, with all IDs, credit cards and money (over $200) inside.
As we might try to downplay this, by saying that this is a "normal" thing to do, the reality is that the man could have decided to keep the wallet for himself. No one would know. But he instead chose to act with kindness and honesty.
Which takes me to my other story. I went swimming a couple of days ago to the gym. When I was taking my shower, I realized that one of my earrings had fallen. I freaked out, as I had received these earrings from my husband just the day before, and they had not only sentimental but also monetary value. I dressed as fast as I could and went back to the pool area, praying that my earring might have fallen outside of the water. I asked all instructors and people who where there and they all looked at me with a "poor you/hopeless case" look on their face. Ten minutes later, as I was packing my stuff from the locker room, I heard a knock on the door. One of the swimmers had found the earring at the bottom of the swimming pool (what are the odds??) and most important, had decided to return it. The person who gave it back, a trainer who has seen me there a couple of times before, put his hand on my shoulder and said "You are at home here. You have nothing to worry about".
This exchange really brought me back to reality and made me realize how much I was buying into the negative speech that has been floating around me, trying to convince me (us) that Lebanon is indeed a dangerous place to be in, a place where one needs to be in fear. And although I do not want to downplay the consequences of the dreadful conflict that is occurring very near, the effects of the economic crises, and the crime rise, I would like to remind ourselves that Lebanon is still the place where people are honest, where people are kind, and where people have your back.