Once I was walking down the street in Victoria's surf capital Torquay, and I noticed an automatic teller machine (one of those "holes in the walls") that had a fresh, crisp $50 note in its withdrawal slot. I looked up and down the street, and aside from a mate of mine who was looking in the window of the shop next door, there was no-one in sight. I honestly looked at that money for about 30 seconds, wondering what to do, and I even pointed the owner-less money out to my friend - "I'll take it if you don't!" was his astute observation.
I took that money, and so I gained $50, and went and bought lunch. But the cost of that action was only apparent later:
• I almost expected to be seeing my picture on "Australia's Most Wanted" (my friend thought that was stupid).
• I made sure I used up that money real quick so I wouldn't have to give it back - and so I didn't really get any benefit of the money (e.g. I didn't save it or use it to get anything good: I may as well not have had it!)
• I lost a little bit of faith in myself.
That last one was the real impact and indicates the True Cost. It would have been better if I had taken the $50 into the bank and reported it. Then I wouldn't be thinking about it 12 years later.
I don't feel bad about the money itself now, and I have prayed for forgiveness, but I learnt a lesson and I experienced guilt for years disproportionate to the size of this little matter. I can't make amends now - the time for that is past. And I am still learning to trust myself to do the right thing again.