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The $56,500 Decision!!
I grew up with a very humble lifestyle, in a family of six. Dad worked very hard as a plumber but during alot of my younger years, was unemployed alot so we struggled to make ends meet. As kids, we never really felt the stress my parents had to be under, since it didn't seem we ever had to want for anything. No, we didn't have the top of the line clothes, cars, and/or toys, but we had plenty to say the least and all in all, I must admit I had a pretty good childhood, coming from a nice home created by two loving parents.
That being said, I wanted to share with you an incident that happened while I was a youngster. I didn't know anything about this until it was all over, but the story is very reflective of the kind of parents I had and the values they passed along to me, which hopefully I'm doing the same today with my kids.
As I stated above, dad was out of work alot due to the economic climate back in the 70's. When an opportunity to work did come up, alot of times, the job was out of town, meaning dad had a long commute to and from the job site. Well this particular time was no different. Dad got a job working somewhere up in Pennsylvania. He and a friend of his both got assigned jobs at the same location so the two of them commuted together every morning.
As there daily routine unfolded, this day was no different than any others. My dad's friend was driving and they were on a major multi-lane highway in Pennsylvania, on their way to work. As they drove along in very light traffic, the two of them spotted something lying in the road ahead. As the two of them got closer, they could see that these items in the road were two bags. Not knowing exactly what they were, they had a feeling they had to be of something valuable. As the approached, they stopped the truck right in the middle of the highway, not even bothering to pull to the side of the road. The two of them jumped out, leaving the truck running. There were two bags lying in the road so they each grabbed a bag and jumped back into the truck. At close obervation, they could tell these were money bags. Still not knowing what was in the bags, they sped off and planned to get off at the next exit to see exactly what they picked up.
Between the point of pickup and the next exit, they actually passed an bank armored vehicle driving along the same highway. Based on that, the story was starting to unfold. Once they pulled off the highway, they realized the two bags were full of money. The total was actually $56,500 in small unmarked bills.
Not knowing what to do, the two of them headed back home with their newly found treasures. As you can imagine, all kinds of things were going through their minds. Each returned to their perspective homes to share the news with their perspective spouses.
When my father told my mother, her immediate response was that the money does not belong to you and the discussion was quickly ended. She had no interest in having something that didn't belong to them. The other concern was that somebody probably got a good ID on the pickup truck they were driving.
For whatever reason, they waited a day or two to see what if any news of the lost money would come about. Nothing was ever printed. I can only imagine the thoughts my father was having. Having been unemployed just as much as being employed, this windfall could have really taken alot of pressure off the household financials. Granted, by todays standards, $56,500 is not alot of money, considering it would need to be split into two, making it $28,250 each. Even that amount of money would be a huge upside to catching up on bills and possibly build alittle cushion in the family savings account.
All that being said, dad knew what he needed to do. We were a very practicing Catholic family, attending church regularly on Sundays. As kids, we all went to Catholic school for grades 1-8, and two of us even continued through 12th grade in the Catholic school. I guess mom's initial comments rang loud and clear with dad.
On the third day, dad and his friend called the local police station in the area where they found the money. They told the police they would be coming in, bringing the money they found on the highway.
When they arrived at the police station, they learned a few things. First off, supposedly a door on the armored car flew open and the bags fell out accidentally. It wasn't noticed until the armored car got several more miles down the road. Secondly, the police had a description of a small car having been seen stopping on the side of the road. Totally not a match for the pickup truck they were driving. Finally, the occupants of the armored car were being put threw the ringer in terms of interrogation. If you think about it, how does a door simply fly open and bags of money fall out. Investigators were obviously looking at some type of conceived plan to have accomplices pick up the money.
The end result of this entire incident was that the armored car company paid a $2000 reward split between my father and his friend for them returning the money to its rightful owners. The next day, a headline appeared in the papers which stated "An Honest Man Returns $56,500". No names were given and the article simply stated a single person found and returned the money.
What Would You Have Done?
Would you have turned in the money or kept it?
The Bottom Line
So, as tempting as I could imagine it would have been for my father, having stumbled upon some additional money during difficult times, I'm sure he realized that the rightful owners of this money was where it belonged. Alot of deep mind searching must have taken place but in the end, the right decision was made. I have alot of respect for the decision my father made, and I think about that all the time. Those values that he exhibited have stayed with me and are the same values that I am instilling in my children. I'm certain his Catholic background and upbringing played a huge role in getting him to the decision that he ultimately made. The bottom line is you need to do the right thing. I can garantee you that the night after my father turned the money in, he got the best nights sleep that he had in a long time. And as the headline article read, "An Honest Man, Returns $56,500", I can't help but smile with pride as that honest man was my father!!!! (see also Crabbing With Dad)