[dropcap style="color: #54b948;"] T [/dropcap]hree upstate New York housemates had the ultimate test in ethics when they found $40,000 in a couch they purchased at the Salvation Army for a mere $20.
Reese Werkhoven, a sophomore at SUNY New Paltz, Lara Russo, a recent SUNY New Paltz graduate, and Mount Holyoke College alumna Cally Guasti, were faced with a dilemma straight out of a television show when they dug up $40,000 in cash stowed away in their recently purchased couch.
Featured in New Paltz digital newspaper The Little Rebellion, the group explained how they searched through every crevice of the couch after identifying a plastic envelope stuffed with a wad of twenties in the couch arm.
“Just when we thought we pulled out the last envelope we’d find another $1,000 a few minutes later,” Guasti told the newspaper.
After digging through the couch for twenty minutes, the three housemates were looking at a grand total of $40,000.
Next, the big question surfaced: What do they do with the money?
Dreams of traveling the world, paying off student loans, and buying their parents a car finally seemed to be a reality, until they came across one thing: the name of a woman written on one of the envelopes.
“We had a lot of moral discussions about the money,” Russo told The Little Rebellion. “We all agreed that we had to bring the money back to whoever it belonged to… it’s their money–we didn’t earn it. However, there were a lot of gray areas we had to consider.”
— State U of New York (@SUNY) March 20, 2014
What if the woman who the money belonged to isn’t a good person? What if she isn’t deserving? What if it was stolen money?
They group then did what many of us do in any tough situation, they called their parents.
After a long discussion of ethics, the group ultimately decided that they would seek out the woman whose name was written on the envelope. They finally traced the woman to a rough neighborhood in Hudson Valley.
“I think the part of this whole experience that cleared away my prior thoughts and worries was when I saw the woman’s daughter and granddaughter greet us at the door.” Werkhoven told the newspaper. “I could just tell right away that these were nice people.”
As is turns out, the woman’s husband was terminally ill and gave her money each week before he passed away. For 30 years, the woman safeguarded the money her husband left her in the couch that she slept on.
So how could a couch stuffed with $40,000 end up in the Salvation Army?
The woman had an operation on her back, forcing her to stay in a rehabilitation center. Following the doctor’s advice, the woman’s children got rid of the couch she used to sleep on and replaced it with a bed. The three good Samaritans then bought the same couch for $20 at the Salvation Army.
They didn’t leave empty ended though. The three friends left with a $1,000 reward from the woman as well as a lesson in ethics they’ll never forget.
Top photo via The Little Rebellion
Olivia is a former student assistant in the Office of New Media for the State University of New York. She is an undergraduate direct and interactive marketing major with a minor in economics at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, NY.