What Would You Do?

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What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
James 2:14-17

Many of us have stories about old couches — particularly ones we had in college, or shortly after. But not many stories are like the one three roommates in New Paltz, N.Y., can now tell.

After the trio realized their beat-up couch was stuffed with more than $40,000, they decided to return the money to its rightful owner.

It all started when roommates Reese Werkhoven, Cally Guasti and Lara Russo realized that the lumps in their couch’s pillows were actually envelopes stuffed with money. Just two months earlier, they’d bought the couch for $20 at a Salvation Army store.

“It had these bubble wrap envelopes, just like two or three of them,” Werkhoven tells CBS New York. “We ripped them out and [I] was just like freaking out, like an inch and a half of $100 bills.”

Or, as he told SUNY, New Paltz student-run blog The Little Rebellion, “I almost peed.”

They kept finding more envelopes in the couch, pulling money out of it like an upholstered ATM.

Werkhoven added, “The most money I’d ever found in a couch was like 50 cents. Honestly, I’d be ecstatic to find just $5 in a couch.”

The discovery was like a dream for the three friends, all of whom are either in college or recent graduates.

As they counted the money, they talked about what they might do with it; Werkhoven says he wanted to buy his mom a new car. But then they spotted a name among the envelopes, and realized they were faced with an ethical puzzle.

“We had a lot of moral discussions about the money,” Russo tells Little Rebellion. “We all agreed that we had to bring the money back to whoever it belonged to … it’s their money — we didn’t earn it. However, there were a lot of gray areas we had to consider.”

They asked their parents for advice; don’t spend the money, they were told. A phone number led them to the family that had donated the couch — and to answers about why it was full of money.

The roommates drove to the woman’s house in what The Little Rebellion calls “a rustic home in a rough neighborhood.”

“I think the part of this whole experience that cleared away my prior thoughts and worries was when I saw the woman’s daughter and granddaughter greet us at the door,” Werkhoven tells the blog. “I could just tell right away that these were nice people.”

It turned out that the money was socked away out of the woman’s late husband’s concerns that he wouldn’t always be there for his wife (she has chosen to remain anonymous). It represented decades of savings, including wages from the woman’s job as a florist.

For years, she also slept on the couch. But recent back problems led her daughter and son-in-law to replace it with a bed, meaning that the couch had to go.

“This was her life savings and she actually said something really beautiful, like ‘This is my husband looking down on me and this was supposed to happen,’ ” Guasti tells CBS NY.

After they returned the money to the woman, Guasti, Russo and Werkhoven received $1,000 as a reward.

What would you do if you found $40,000 in a Salvation Army couch? I honestly think that I’d do the same as these roommates did, because they found the name of the person to whom it belonged. If I had no idea of who it belonged to and no way of finding out, I would have given part of the money to the Salvation Army and done something good with the rest if it.

In addition, Reese Werkhoven looks pretty sexy in the picture above, this story makes him all the sexier to me.

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

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