Robert Adams is a man of character

Robert Adams is a man of character Credit: Photo by The Daily Herald, Joe Lewnard / AP

We have too few positive stories to discuss these days, that when a feel-good story comes to light it warrants special attention.  Robert Adams, a 54 year-old Chicago man, stopped at an ATM and on the sidewalk sat a clear plastic bag containing checks, receipts and $17,021 in cash, wrapped by a rubber band.

Adams was at the Chase ATM because he wanted a drink and something to eat, but didn’t have the money for both.  It never occurred to Robert to pocket the money, so he took the money into the bank, assuming a bank employee had left the bag by accident.

Adams philosophy is based on his upbringing, “It’s not my money. I shouldn’t take it. I don’t care if you put another zero on there, I wasn’t raised to take money that isn’t mine. If I saw you drop it, I’d say, “Excuse me, sir. I think you dropped something.”

In the best of times many would’ve walked away with the cash.  In today’s horrible economy not many would’ve had the character to take the cash directly into the bank.  There’s simply not a better word to describe Adams’ honesty than to say it straight up: character.  While many would say, “I’d do the same thing,” the sad fact is that many would not, especially given the fact that so many are unemployed, inflation is hitting the supermarkets and no one can escape the high fuel costs.

Adams stated that he never had the urge to keep any of the money.  He didn’t need to weigh the pros and cons of  keeping the money, or slipping a little taste into his pocket.  How many of us have come across a $10 or $20 in the parking lot and only thought, “Wow, today’s my lucky day,” without a second thought of the person who the money belonged to?  In the same circumstance Adams would likely have gone from person to person to find who the money belonged to.

When Adams took the money into the branch, an employee told him that their ATM is accessed by employees from inside and there would be no reason for an employee to take checks or cash outside the bank.

The majority of people, after taking that first step, would’ve kept the money.  No matter how many people tell you otherwise, after being told by the bank it was not their money, most would’ve taken the money home, stashed it in a drawer, waited 30 days to see if anyone made a claim, and if not the money would’ve been spent.  Not Robert Adams.  Adams went further, calling the police, who then determined the money had been dropped by a Loomis armored car, destined for an ATM in another city.

The police took possession of the bag, holding it until it was claimed by a Loomis official.  Loomis now has the bag and is investigating the incident.  Loomis has declined to say whether Adams will get a reward.  In all likelihood, if Loomis offered Adams a reward it might be difficult to get him to accept it.

People in the area aren’t the least bit surprised by Adams behavior. The owner of the restaurant where Adams was headed said, “He has been coming in for years, always orders the same thing, very nice guy. It’s hard to find people like that, honest people.”  That’s putting it mildly.  It’s more than hard, it’s damn near impossible.

Had Adams been a banker, CEO or business owner, flush with cash, it may be less of a stretch to imagine Adams bringing the money into the bank and then calling the police.  Adams is a shift worker, leaving the job after a sweltering day, without enough money in his pocket to buy himself a drink and a burrito.  Doubtless there was far less than $17,000 in the bank account he was accessing at the ATM.

The local police chief said, “Adams did good: We all said right away that this guy deserves something — credit for being an Honest Abe.”  But to Adams, his personal reward is knowing he did the right thing.  What Adams did was bring great credit to his parents for raising a decent honest man.  Surely they are filled with great pride, and deservedly so.

Tell this story to your kids, about a man who not only knew right from wrong, he lived it and showed everyone what true character is all about.  Mr. Adams, we all thank you for reminding us that there is still true goodness in this world and that the greatest rewards come from within.