I ran over to Rite Aid this morning because I needed more milk and was too lazy to go all the way to the grocery store for it. I picked up my milk and made my way back to the cashier, and right there, in the middle of the greeting cards aisle was a $100 bill.
At first I didn’t think it was real. It was folded in half and I thought for sure it was a fake. Prior to this, the most money I’ve ever found just laying around was a $20 bill that I found in a coffee shop on the UCR campus. This was 5 times that amount. What luck! I stuffed the bill in my back pocket, paid for my milk and then asked for the manager.
When the manager came, I gave her the $100 bill and said, “I found this in the greeting card aisle. Here it is, in case someone comes looking for it.” She thanked me and said she’d lock it up in the office. And I came home to have my breakfast.
There was never any chance that I would have kept that $100. I got an adreneline rush just finding it, but there is more to the phrase “finders keepers” than meets the eye. For one thing, the area around where I live has it’s share of lower income people. The $100 bill was folded in half and chances were it slipped out of someone’s pocket while walking through the store. Chances are good that the someone whose pocket out of which it slipped is someone who can ill afford to lose a $100 bill. So it was my duty as an honest person to give the money to the store manager, in the hope that whoever lost it will come looking for it and be reunited with it. It is not up to me to question the honesty of the store manager–who seemed very nice. I believe I did the right thing and I hope I would do it again in a simiar situation. After all, if I lost a $100 bill, I would hope that someone would do what I did today.
It does make me wonder about the limits of my ethical behavior. Regarless of circumstance, the right thing to do was to return the money to its rightful owner. As it turns out, I am not in dire financial straights and could well afford to return to the money. But what if that money would have helped to pay my rent for the money, or help to pay the electric bill? Would I have the same moral courage under those circumstances, as I did today?
I hope I would, but I don’t know.