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Losers Weepers

David Gartland

MY SON AND I WALK the streets of our town, so my son can pick up trash and recyclables. He’s obsessive-compulsive about trash. He impulsively picks it up even if he isn’t wearing gloves or doesn’t have his grabber available. To reduce this behavior, he and I go out daily looking for trash, so he feels there’s less trash out there.

We do find trash, but we also find things that I wouldn’t classify as trash. These items may be tools, gloves, nuts and bolts, bicycle parts, shopping bags and dollar bills.

Usually, the rule of thumb I apply to these non-trash items is the one from childhood: finders keepers, losers weepers. I don’t know who owned these items before we found them, and thus there’s no way I can return them to their rightful owner.

But the other day, I found a signed $100 check made out to cash. I love free money. This was free money. All’s good, right? Wrong. The person’s name and address were on the check. This person lives in my town, so this would be like stealing from my neighbor. The moral kicker comes from my Sunday school days. There, I learned that I should “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Rats. If I were to write a check made out to cash and then lose it, I’d want the person who found the check to return it to me.

In this case, I could. I put it in a stamped envelope, with a note explaining where I found the check and when. In my note, I told the person to never make a check out to cash.

On the way back from our walk, I thought about why I was willing to give up the $100. The answer came to me quickly: It’s because I have enough. I could always use more money, but for now I have enough.

On the other hand, if I were unemployed or behind on the medical bills for a sick child, I’d consider the money heaven sent and run to the bank to cash the check. Those scenarios, fortunately, don’t apply—and so I was able to do the right thing.

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