As I listened to my radio during my morning walk on Monday, March 28, 2022, the “Joy FM” host told a story titled, “Appearances can be deceptive.” Before delving into the story, an experience I had in 1985 wells up!
British Caledonia was a British airline that operated between Ghana and the UK in the 1970s and 1980s from Gatwick International Airport. However, in 1987, facing serious financial problems, British Caledonia was bought and absorbed by British Airways (BA).
My flight to the UK in 1985 before the BA takeover was thus by British Caledonia. Accra-Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire was a short flight of less than an hour. Passengers who joined us in Abidjan included two elegantly dressed women.
On arrival at Gatwick, we were surprisingly shepherded into an enclosure in a remote corner of the airport.
When the police officers arrived with their sniffer dogs, they told us they were going to do routine checks for narcotics. After going round all of us, the sniffer dogs settled on the two women who joined us in Abidjan.
As they were being led away by the police, a woman who started from Accra suddenly shouted at the passengers:
“Shame! Shame on all of you! Because I don't look as sophisticated and well-fed as those two women, you were stealing glances at me when the police said they were going to check for narcotics!
“You sentenced me to a wee-carrier because of my looks and dress! Shame on you all!”
You could hear a pin drop as the guilty passengers bowed their heads in shame, knowing she was right!
Appearances can be deceptive!.
The presenter's story was a true one which happened in two different parts of the world. In the 1980s, Maxwell Morrison was a schoolboy who took to the “punk-rock” fashion of the day, dressing unconventionally with tattoos over his body.
A loner, he even carried a knife on him to school, making his schoolmates avoid him!
Along a nearby riverbank one day, he heard a boy screaming “I can't swim! Please don't throw me in!”
Maxwell noticed three boys who had bundled a little boy to throw him into the river. Rushing at the three boys, Morrison rescued him from imminent death!
The grateful foreign student simply said to Morrison, “appearances can be deceptive!” Asked why, he said that Morrison's appearance and stories about him made him think that he would be the last to stake his life against potential murderers just to save him.
He added that there were rumours circulating that on one occasion, Maxwell even stabbed a teacher.
Judge Tran Pack
Thirty years later in a Bangkok court in Thailand, Maxwell Morrison stood before a judge accused of smuggling narcotics in a musical instrument into Thailand. This offence could land him in prison for life!
Morrison defended himself saying, when he saw a mother with little children struggling with her baggage, he offered to help her.
When sniffer dogs sniffed narcotics in the instrument, the woman vanished into thin air.
The prosecution argued that for the senior police officer that Morrison was in Nottingham UK, he could not have been that naïve to carry baggage for a stranger in an airport in Thailand, reputed for descending heavily on drug smugglers.
Morrison simply said “appearances can be deceptive!”
After 45 minutes, the judge's gavel sounded for a verdict.
“Mr Morrison, appearances can indeed be deceptive! Not guilty. You are free to go!”
Unknown to Morrison, Judge Tran Pack was the little boy whose life he saved from the three bullies who were going to throw him into a river 32 years earlier.
He made Morrison out the moment he entered his court. He knew Morrison as a man of integrity who staked his life for him.
He would not smuggle narcotics anywhere! Typical of him, Morrison was only helping a woman he thought needed help!
The story at Gatwick Airport teaches us not to be judgemental, as we are likely to go wrong like the passengers. Matthew 7:1-3 says: Judge not that ye be not judged. For what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged.
In any case, how many of who judge, have the integrity of Maxwell Morrison, which will make Judge Tran Pack rule in our favour?
For us who are quick at painting everybody politically as either black or white, life has lots of gray areas. Ghana's development needs all Ghanaian hands on deck.
The situation where at any one time, half the country appears polarised as “opponents” at best, “enemies” at worst, does not make sense. For as the saying goes, a nation divided against itself will fall.
Another lesson is that, in life, it is good to do good. Thirty-two years after saving a foreign student Tran Pack's life in the UK, Judge Tran Pack saved Maxwell Morrison from imprisonment for life in Thailand!
The moral of the story was/is that, never tire of doing good, “for kindness is not a debt, but an investment.” Paradoxically, dishonesty/greed is evil!
The musician Akwasi Ampofo Adjei (Mr AAA) put it simply, “If you do good, you do for yourself! If you do bad, you do for yourself!”
Whether in government, opposition or “non-aligned,” every Ghanaian deserves inclusion in national development, for “appearances can be deceptive!”
Leadership, lead! Fellow Ghanaians, wake up!
The writer is former CEO, African Peace Support Trainers Association, Nairobi, Kenya & Council Chairman, Family Health University College, Accra.