We teach our children that when they find something lying around, they should ask whose it is (even money / especially money), and/or hand it in at the nearest office.
We know exactly that someone at that office will in all likelihood accept the R100 or so that has just been handed in, and stick them into their own pocket, with a “Yay! I score! Silly kid, he could have kept it!”
And yet we teach our children not to hang on to found property. Why?
In my son’s school, children who are honest enough to hand found money in at the office, are honoured on stage in the hall at the next school assembly. I like the principle of them being highlighted like that. One could think of several ways in which truly crooked and wily kids could still abuse this; and one could of course think of ways in which this is moot – e.g. if even one person at the office is not honest enough that when the true owner of the money comes asking, they’ll simply say, “no, sorry – nobody handed any in”. But if one can put aside one’s jaded South African experience and believe for a moment that this school is truly trying to create a more honest world with more honest people, it gives tremendous hope.
Now for the prize question.
If you saw R200 lying in the road. Would you, like in the old days, go and hand it in at the nearest police station or would you regard it as “pennies from heaven” and pocket it?
The philosophies divide here, I expect. It is now truly an issue between you, yourself and yous. Because the chances are 100% for the South African police to pocket that bit of small change; 0% for any citizen to come to their counter asking if anyone had handed anything in (nobody does). So handing it to the police is literally making a donation from an anonymous person to the police. Asking around whose it is, in the street, will result in someone claiming it in 2 seconds – more likely, ten people claiming it and asking if you have more. And if you pocket it, the only person who will ever know this is you.
Was there ever a world in which handing it in at the police worked (i.e. the original owner saw his money again)?
And what about your karma/conscience/soul?