Both articles appeared in our Sunday newspaper posing the ethical dilemma. What do you do if an unexpected fortune suddenly falls in your lap? Do you report it? Do you spend it? Or do you just walk away.
The first example occurred in Hagerstown, Md. when two plastic bags containing $5,700 fell out of an armored truck. It was reported that approximately 30 cars pulled over and the occupants were eagerly stuffing their pockets with the manna from heaven.
The second incident occurred here in Columbus to an elderly couple—he is 83 and his wife is 76. The couple is devoutly religious and had been praying for years to be able to establish a space where people could go to meditate and pray. They even had established a separate bank account for the purpose but had been able to set aside only a few hundred dollars over the 20 to 30 years for this purpose. Then, their prayers were answered. On December 31, 2010, $220,039 mysteriously appeared in their bank account.
Mystified, they inquired at the bank. They tried to give it back five or six times. They asked if it was OK to spend it and were told, “Yes, it’s in your account.” As a test they took out $600 and also transferred $50,000 into another account. Nothing happened. When no one complained they prayed about what to do with the rest of the money. They then paid off their house and bought a much-needed new van for $27,000. Being good Christians, they gave their tithe amount of $22,000 to their church.
They felt this money truly was heaven sent as the wife had been ill for some time and had been hospitalized five times in the last year due to kidney problems and had dialysis three times a week. The retired husband had been forced to taken on a job to pay the added medical bills.
They were impressed with the Lord. Then, just as suddenly, all accounts were frozen. Following that was the indictment accusing the couple of theft and unauthorized use of property which carries a prison term of six years for each.
The county prosecutor brought charges against them until he learned they had asked their bank several times if they should spend the money. The charges have been dropped but they aren’t out of the woods yet. The bank and mortgage company are suing the couple seeking the money’s return.
What would you do with found money? Some say it is only human nature to take advantage of such an opportunity. Others say the money is insured so why not take it? Still others say the banks have been taking money from us so it is just karma.
Karma, indeed. Karma is defined as actions that determine future state. In Hindu and Buddhist philosophy, the quality of somebody’s current and future lives as determined by that person’s behavior in this and in previous lives.
What would your karma be?