$50,000 Worth of Integrity

The headline could have proclaimed “Martha Stewart Becomes Pope,” and I would have been less shocked. I stared at the front page of the Seattle Times in disbelief.

“Snohomish, WA—Lisa Thorpe of Lynnwood passed the Good Samaritan test Sunday when she found $50,000 cash in a roadside ditch—and gave it to police.

“According to Snohomish County sheriff's spokesman Elliot Woodall: A Snohomish man, 65, withdrew the cash Saturday, planning to deposit it in another bank.

“But first the man, who recently had a death in his family, drove home and became distracted, leaving the money bag on the running board of his pickup truck.

“Later he drove the truck on an errand and didn't realize until early Sunday that the money was missing.

"Thorpe was on a Sunday drive with her family when she noticed a money clip and money on the road in the 200 block of Dubuque Road north of Snohomish. When she stopped to investigate, she found the bag of cash in the ditch.”

The story hit me like an avalanche of rocks. Coincidentally, I had driven on the 200 block of Dubuque Road that Sunday and had whizzed by $50,000! The question still taunts me: What would I have done with the money?

Captivated by the story, I set out to contact Lisa Thorpe. Fifteen phone calls and an hour of frustration later, I had Lisa on the line. "Hi, um, Lisa?" I stammered. "You, ah, don't know me, but I read about what you did last week, um, with the $50,000 and all and I, um, want you to know that what you did was a very honorable thing."

"Thank you," she replied modestly. "I appreciate the call."

"Um, one question," I blurted out before she could hang up. I had to ask her the burning question. "Were you tempted to keep the money?"

"No, not really."

"Why not?"

"Well," she said, "you may not understand, but have you ever heard of the Ten Commandments?"

What Adventist minister hasn't heard of the Ten Commandments? A fourth-generation Adventist, I could recite the Ten Commandments before I could say my full name.

"Yes," I assured her, "I've heard of the Ten Commandments."

"Then you know about the one that says not to steal?"


"Then you know why I…"

"Yes, I know."

Her final words cut like a surgeon's scalpel: "As far as I’m concerned, my integrity is worth far more than $50,000."

What about you? What is your integrity worth?

Integrity is the primary ingredient of a successful life. It is the cornerstone in the foundation of success—living honestly when no one's watching.

You can drive a Corvette, get a degree from Harvard, vacation in Australia, golf with an even handicap and sing like Celine Dion, but you’ll never be truly successful unless you live the same in public as you do in private. Only when truthfulness is deeply imbedded in your character will you taste the heady potion of success.

So, what is your integrity worth?

October 01, 2004 / Fresh Start