Found Money

Don Southworth

IT’S ESTIMATED THAT up to $3 billion of unclaimed property is recovered every year. But another $49 billion is lost and still waiting to be claimed. How much of it is yours?

Whenever I check if I’m due anything, I always come up empty. But the memories of found money keep me checking and hoping something pops up. Who can ever forget finding that surprise dollar bill in the pocket of your recently washed jeans when you were 11 years old, and the extra candy bar or two you bought?

My wife Kathleen and I have had two unexpected windfalls we’ll never forget. The first was when I was in seminary and money was tight. Our car was stolen and totaled. I was happy to take the insurance settlement. But my wife discovered a special law that allowed us to file a claim and maybe receive restitution from the man who stole our car. I told her not to waste her time. Thankfully, Kathleen didn’t listen to me and, two or three years later, we received a completely unexpected check for $8,000 paid from the criminal’s earnings. Listening to Kathleen’s “I told you so” multiple times was a small price to pay.

The second surprise came when we were walking the back streets of Capri. We had celebrated Kathleen’s successful second battle with cancer and my new job by taking our first vacation to Europe. During the two-week tour of Italy, we meandered away from our tour group and spotted a pile of euros on the ground. There was nobody around and no police station nearby. I ran into the closest bathroom to count our new-found treasure: 800 euros, which at the time was worth $1,250. We didn’t know what to do. We felt terrible that someone had lost all that money, but we had nobody to give it to.

We had earlier visited St. Francis Basilica. I went back the next day at 6 a.m. I prayed and meditated at Francis’s burial site, seeking guidance on what to do. The solution came quickly. A man who had undergone chemotherapy treatments with Kathleen had to cancel a trip to Italy with his wife due to financial concerns. We decided to send the couple the money anonymously when we returned home. It felt right and good.

Found money may be the best money there is, whether it’s used for candy bars, for groceries or to help someone else. Be sure to find—and maybe give away—all that you can.

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