Saturday, April 15, 2006


Let's say that you're given a valuable gift, but you suspect that it might not have been acquired honestly. Should you think twice about keeping it, even though you really, really like the gift?

Several months ago Bonnie Drago of Windsor, Ontario, was in her church basement, helping to prepare the food and decorations for a baby shower. It was raining outside, and the service upstairs in the church's chapel had recently concluded.

A young man, soaking wet, came into the basement and asked Drago when Mass was scheduled to take place. She told him that it had already concluded, but advised him that a service was to be held an hour later at another church nearby.

She asked if he needed a ride to the other church, but he declined.

"I thought he looked a little dejected," Drago writes, "so I approached him and asked quietly if he needed some help. He said `yes."'

Drago served him some hot chicken that she had been preparing for the baby shower, and then handed him $10. The young man appeared surprised. As he turned to leave, he took a watch from his pocket -- "a very good man'swatch from an expensive jewelry store in our city," she says -- and said that he had found it. He handed it to Drago, told her to keep it and then took off out the door.

Drago has no idea who the young man was, where he came from or where he went. She wondered if the watch had been stolen, and now she wants to know if she should check this out with the store.

Her conscience is prodding her to call the store, give the owner the serial number on the back of the watch and ask if anyone has reported itmissing.

"But I really did not want to get involved," she says and, besides, "my son would really like to have it. What's the right thing to do?"

Drago's conscience serves her well. If she suspects that the watch was purchased or otherwise "acquired" from a particular jewelry store, then calling the store to see if the watch has been reported missing is a good first step.

If Drago is truly concerned that the watch may have been stolen, then the right thing for her to do would be to go to the Windsor Police Service and tell them that, though she was given the watch as a gift, she wants to make sure that it wasn't stolen.

I talked to Staff Sgt. Ed McNorton of the Windsor Police, who told me that the police can run the serial number to see if the watch has been reported stolen. If it has been, she will have to turn it over. If it hasn't, however, she will leave with the watch.

If she turned it in as a "found" object, however, it would be sold at auction, McNorton adds.

Sure, by doing the right thing, Drago runs the risk of losing the watch. But all she'll really be out is the $10 and the plate of chicken that she gave the young man. Since she expected nothing in return for her generosity, she doesn't lose anything if she doesn't get to keep the watch, and if it turns out to be free and clear, she'll have not only a swell timepiece but also a clear conscience.


Anonymous said...

The situation is a no brainer, if material acquisition is of no importance. With this said, you report the watch and see if it is an honest gift. If not, you report the watch and go on with your day. It's a gift you were not expecting or depending on!

Anonymous said...

I am concerned with the increasing lack of civility, empathy and honesty in our government, media and everywhere else. I feel that we owe it to our children and to each other as world citizens to set the example. How can she look at her son wearing that great timepiece and feel good about her role in its acquisition if it was in fact, stolen? On the other hand, imagine the sense of wonder in this good deed bringing such unexpected fruit!

Anonymous said...

A "no-brainer". Report the watch and get on with your mission, no matter what the result.

Ethos 21st