“I was 17-years-old and about to graduate from high school,” said my close friend Kathy Basso, as she thought back to 1973. “My dad had sent me on a bank errand and when I came out of the Bank of America, I noticed a white envelope between the curb and my tire.”
Kathy opened the envelope and to her astonishment, it was filled with cash, all in small bills. She unfastened the rubber band holding the cash and counted $760.
“I could sure use that money!” she thought to herself, as her heart pounded with excitement. And she began to think about all the things she would buy with it. But as she stood there, a little voice in her head whispered, “Treat others the way you would like to be treated.”
With a deep sigh, Kathy knew what she had to do. She turned and walked back into the bank and handed the envelope to the branch manager, explaining to him what had happened.
He smiled at her, and said, “If no-one claims the money in one week, it will be yours.”
When Kathy told her friends, everyone laughed. “Why didn’t you just keep it,” they said. “It had no name or address on it and the money was now yours. What a silly thing you did in returning it.”
As Kathy anxiously waited, a few days later a letter arrived in the mail. “An elderly lady sent it to me and her letter said, ‘I was recently widowed and this money was my portion of my husband’s Social Security check. It is all the income I have.’ She wanted me to know how thankful she was, and she enclosed a $100 reward.”
Kathy was thrilled to get this reward and proudly showed her father the $100 check. But she was stunned at his response. “My dad said, ‘Send it back to her with a thank you note. With time, you will understand.’ I said, ‘But daddy!’ And as he looked at me, I knew what I had to do.”
A year passed and one day, a letter from an attorney came for Kathy. “It said he was representing this elderly woman’s estate and that he was holding a $100 check for me. His letter asked that I contact him.”
When Kathy did, he said before she died this woman explained to him what had happened. That someone had driven her to the bank so she could cash her check. The cash had fallen out of her purse and she was frantic for at this difficult time in her life she needed the money to pay her bills.
“She was deeply gratified that you returned the money and profoundly impressed by your honesty that you would do such a thing. She wanted you to have this $100 check and she wanted you to know how much your kindness meant to her.”
Now 34-years later, I asked Kathy what she learned from that long ago experience. “It pays to be honest even if the reward is not monetary,” she replied. “You don’t know all the circumstances but you know in your heart that you did the right thing.”
And what Kathy received was priceless and has stayed with her long after that money would have been spent and forgotten.