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Honesty is its Own Reward

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A recent piece in The Week Magazine and other news sources tells a moving story. The story is of 52 year old California man Joe Cornell with “nothing to his name” who, nonetheless, when coming across $125,000 that was not his own, made the decision to return the money rather than take it.

He was watering trees on the lot of a Salvation Army facility where he stays for drug addiction treatment. He noticed an odd scene as a car honked at an armored truck, the truck stopped, the drivers exchanged words and the truck pulled away. His curiosity sparked him to take a look at the scene, where he spotted a large bag on the ground. He was surprised to find that the heavy bag contained a vast amount of cash, he would later find out amounted to $125,000. When asked how he felt at the time he replied “I started crying and shaking. Everything was going through my head  – the [good/bad] thing…”

After the initial mental struggle, Cornell notified police of what he had found so the money could be returned to its rightful owner. He wanted to set  good example for his grandkids. “I’m here trying to change my life” he said, as a man who has been to jail on a number of occasions. The company is offering him a $5000 reward for his honesty.

Honesty For Honesty’s Sake

No matter his past, Joe Cornell has chosen to do the right thing in his present. The reward money is a nice thought but wasn’t on his mind when he made the decision. When confronted with the call, Joe knew the difference between the right and wrong thing to do. The right thing was a very hard choice, but it was best for his future and that of his family. The chance to be honest and do the right thing was the real reward.

Parents: This story has several great lessons. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover, everyone has the capacity to change. Just because someone has made mistakes in the past doesn’t mean they can’t do the right thing today. Indeed it is the people we are TODAY that matters most of all. The past cannot be changed, what we choose to do and the type of person we choose to be today is our role in the world. It is ok to face temptation as well. Some, perhaps many people would have thought about taking the money, however it is the action we take that counts. Set an example for your children. Returning extra change at a register or something that someone dropped on the street sows the seeds in children so that they can start to see that no matter how big or small the amount, the answer is simply to do the right thing.

Teens: When we know the difference between right and wrong we should strive to apply it to every situation in our life. No matter what comes our way, the blueprint of morality can be applied to guide our actions. Also important is the value of doing the right thing for its own sake. This man may have been offered a reward and gotten some press attention for his actions, but at that moment he made the decision it was just him and the money in front of him. Don’t expect rewards and accolades, do the right thing and act the way you would want others to act. Set an example and be the best you can be.

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