Should Good Deeds Be Rewarded?

July 15th, 2008 by Kathy McManus

What if you found valuable property but knew you wouldn’t be rewarded for its return?

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

If you do the right thing, should you expect to be rewarded?

Yes, say three men in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The men—all city-employed water department workers—were on the job when they discovered an abandoned safe at the side of a road. The safe had been stolen by robbers who broke through the wall of a local bank during a winter ice storm.

Inside was $11,000, credit cards, several bags of blank traveler’s checks, some presumably valuable watches, and bank records.

The three workers notified authorities of their find, and the stolen safe was returned to the bank.

But the story didn’t end there. Two of the three workers told the local newspaper they felt they hadn’t been properly thanked--by the city or the bank--and suggested that virtue might not be its own reward.

"We did the right thing," said the 62-year-old supervisor of the group. "No one even knew that we were out there, and we (still) kept the money secure."

Another of the men said, “We did the right thing, but are the other people doing the right thing? That’s my question to the bank.”

In response, the bank manager and the mayor offered thanks, but newspaper readers offered criticism. In a letter to the editor, one wondered, “Would they have not done it if they had known they wouldn’t get the proper praise or reward?” Another reader wrote, “They did the right thing. But do we have to be rewarded for doing the right thing?”

Tell us what you think: Should the men have been financially rewarded by the bank? If you found valuable property belonging to a bank or other company, but you knew in advance you wouldn’t be rewarded for its return, would that change the way you dealt with your find?