April 10, 2008: As a youth, Eli Estrada was in trouble, nearly homeless and extremely desperate. Last month, at 40, as he and his business partner were in the midst of working hard to keep their fledgling landscaping and artificial grass business going, Estrada found $140,000 cash laying in the street, all of it in unmarked untraceable $20 bills.
The money had been accidentally left on the bumper of a Brinks Security truck on March 11. It had picked up the cash from a Bank of America branch in Cerritos, California, to distribute it among ATMs across the Los Angeles area. The bag later fell off the bumper as the truck rounded a corner.
Estrada is man enough to acknowledge that when he found the bag, he did what even the most honest among us is likely to do under these circumstances: some serious soul-searching about whether to turn in the money. He chose the path of integrity and turned it over to the police. He never asked for a reward or any special treatment (although he did receive a modest reward of $2000).
What particularly moves me about this is that he made his decision despite the fact that he is making payments to the IRS, has credit card debt, and is behind in his child support. Clearly his dedication to "trying to get my life together and do the right thing" outweighed understandable tempatations to take the money and run.
All of us are capable of integrity lapses. Too few of us harvest gifts from these experiences that result in our living in even deeper integrity and become more immune to integrity lapses in the future. Eli is fighting to bring himself back into integrity with his children, his debting and the IRS. Yet, his dedication to restoring his integrity apparently is now so deep that he did the right thing with $140,000 in unmarked bills even though this sum might have solved his money problems. I hope that he will use the reward money to help him move back into financial integrity with his children and his other debts. I hope as well that this experience will open doors for him that will make it far easier to attain financial wellbeing than has been the case before now.
Eli Estrada an example of the everyday hero that all of us are capable of being. Imagine a world inhabited by people dedicated to being Everyday Stewards.
For Everyday Stewardship at its best, Eli Estrada is today’s recipient of the The New IQ IntegrityWatch Blog’s "Integrity Inspiration Award."
I invite everyone reading this to be on the lookout for ways, small and large, visible and invisible, to be an Everyday Steward in your world. You can learn more about being an Everyday Steward in the Stewardship WisePassion sections of The New IQ book and workbook.