I lived in La Ceiba, Honduras a number of times. During one of my stays, the first full-time Honduran voluntary service worker (VS), Julio Pineda, joined our VS team. We lived in the same room that I had earlier helped to build in the basement of the VS house. We did a lot of things together. I remember riding around town with him on the VS motorcycle, dropping in at a local dive to drink cokes and talk about life. I also remember him being one of the biggest fans of softball; several of us VS boys were on local teams.
I had two watches during that time, wearing the one I favored, and leaving the other one behind on the dresser of our room. One day I noticed that Julio was wearing the watch I had left on the dresser. I was more than a little irked. By now I was fairly well-schooled in the language and the culture, so I knew that I should not accuse him directly of stealing—what I would have done in my home culture. I had to give him a way out; that is to say, a way to save face. I stewed on this for some time until I finally came up with an idea. When we were in an appropriate environment, I said to him, “that’s a really cool watch you are wearing, did you buy that here in La Ceiba or somewhere else?” I thought I was giving him a way out to say his mother bought it in San Pedro Sula and gave it to him for his birthday, or something else. “I didn’t buy it,” he replied without batting an eye. “It’s yours.” Now I was totally floored. He was openly admitting to what my culture would consider stealing.
I do not remember much else of the conversation between us, but this little incident caused me to reflect a lot on the differences between the two cultures on private property. I learned that in Honduras, what’s yours is mine. If we share the same living space, we share the same possessions. I had to admit that God had a little lesson in this incident for me. Perhaps Julio was helping me be a better steward of my possessions. I normally would not wear two watches at the same time, so one was being unproductive. Having two watches was wasteful. Julio was helping me to be more faithful with the things I own.