Progress not perfection: A story about insurance money and doing the right thing.
February 13, 2013
Yesterday, I received a fairly substantial check from the good people at USAA insurance for a claim I filed over some jewelry belonging to my wife, which had come up missing after our big move from Chicago to San Francisco. Included among the lost pieces was my wife’s wedding ring. USAA was quick to cut a check, calling me a “stellar client.” Twenty-eight years I have been with them. I received the money in five days.
Here’s the kicker. The day before getting paid, on a whim, I’d elected to dig deeper into one of our still-unpacked boxes holding bric-a-brac, stationary and innocuous office supplies. And lo and behold, there it was: the lost treasure. Mind you, we had checked this box at least three times looking for those jewels. Obviously not hard enough.
Thus, I found myself in possession of both the jewelry and not an insignificant sum of money. In my shoes, I’m pretty certain most of you would count your blessings and return the money to the insurance company. Maybe not all of you. But most.
And I did return the money.
However, I would be lying if I said the decision came easy. I wrestled with the idea of keeping the cash. After all, I have a shit-ton of bills relating to my new life in the most expensive city in the United States. I also kept thinking about the premiums I’d paid USAA over the last 28 years –for cars, homes and personal property- all without ever filing a claim. Maybe this windfall was like a dividend check for all those investments?
Or stealing. Or lying. Or insurance fraud.
Yet, it wasn’t fear of reprisals that ultimately sealed my decision. I knew I wasn’t going to get caught. When I’d filed the claim USAA said my years of being a “model client” meant there would be no investigation.
In the end I couldn’t live with the bad behavior. I have lived with bad behavior and let me tell you it is a dreadful weight. It eats at your self worth, goading you into dark corners and evermore ugliness. I know this from experience. And yet I was still tempted. Insanity!
So why was the devil on my shoulder trying to rationalize keeping the money? I know right from wrong. And keeping the money would have been wrong. If I’m too dense to see that for myself then as a father of three young girls I need to set an example for them. Wrongfully keeping this money was a line I just couldn’t cross. Thank God.