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Found: A Quarter of 1 Million Dollars

Perhaps you remember reading about the case of the man who found a quarter of a million dollars, or almost that amount, in small, unmarked bills. It seems this man was out of work at the time and hard-pressed for money. The money, in a bag, had in some inexplicable manner, fallen out of an armored truck.

It’s quite a picture. One minute broke and out of work; the next minute, the sole holder of a fortune. The money, as I mentioned, was all in small bills, and there was no record of the serial numbers. No one saw the man find the innocent-appearing bag except his wife, who was with him at the time. I believe it was his wife who first spotted it.

Here’s a classic story of a man and his fall, or his salvation, good versus evil, right and wrong.

A decision to make with only his conscience as his guide and two hundred and forty thousand dollars in cash in his hands. What would you have done? After this interesting case, we got to discussing it at a party. As usual in such cases, several of the men present came up with the intriguing and inventive means of living the “Life of Reilly” for the rest of their lives.

All of their solutions involved keeping the money. This is an excellent example of the unreliability of advice.

Without the emotional problem which could go along with finding the money, these people could not possibly know what they would have done. I believe each one of them would have done exactly what the man did who found the money; they probably would have returned it. Only the criminal type of individual has the make-up necessary to keep the money without paying far too great a price for it, even if he can get away with it.

If our out-of-work friend had tried to keep the money, he would have found himself in prison just as real as if he’d stolen it.

It would have been an emotional prison, but a prison all the same.

He would know that the moment someone missed the money, a search would begin. He had no way of knowing if someone had recorded the serial numbers. If he started spending the money, people would wonder where he got it. If he moved to another part of the country, he would still have the same problem. Suddenly, every man on the street would become a possible plain-clothes man. He would begin to imagine that he was being followed.

Both he and his wife would have to live with the constant knowledge that they had committed a dishonest act. How do you explain something like that to children, relatives, and friends; and if you don’t explain it, which you wouldn’t dare to, how do you account for it?

They would not own the money; the money would own them.

It would eventually destroy their lives. This may sound a bit far-fetched, or melodramatic, but it’s exactly what would have happened if he had not done exactly what you or I would have done in the same situation – given the money back.

The armored car company gave him the job he needed. I imagine any company would have been willing to provide him with any job which involved the handling of large sums of cash. He proved, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that he was an honest man.

A job, a moment of fame, and peace of mind!

It again comes down to the old law – action, and reaction. Honesty really is the best policy, not because I say so, but because the reaction to honesty is always good; the response to dishonesty has to be bad.

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