Imagine walking along one day and happening upon a wallet. It isn’t just any wallet though; it’s a wallet stuffed with thousands of dollars in cash. Would you leave the money inside and attempt to find the rightful owner of the wallet or take the money and run?
It’s a hypothetical “What would you do?” question that is often posed to us but it’s not that often we find ourselves in a situation that requires it in our everyday lives. Well, one Fremont, California resident, they was forced to ask themselves this exact question back in 2015.
Irvington High School senior Tommy O’Connor thought that he was going to enjoy a typical lunch break from school when he happened across the wallet one day. Tommy had purchased a soda and as he left the store he noticed the lost wallet. The teen picked up the wallet and knew he had to do his part in getting it back to its rightful owner.
In today’s day and age, many people struggle to make ends meet and keep a roof over their heads and it’s possible they would be tempted to keep the money and throw away their wallets. However, Tommy isn’t a typical teenager. He later told KPIX 5 local news that there “was like a bunch of hundreds” inside. He added:
“I didn’t count it when I saw it. I just thought it was probably someone’s rent or something.” Furthermore, Tommy’s family is on a fixed income, while the day prior he himself had no lunch money. Yet what he did spoke volumes about the kind of person he is.
Concerned that the wallet made its way back to its owner, Tommy took it and gave it to his para-educator, Ana Gomez, when he returned to school. Gomez opened the wallet and searched the contents, as she hoped to identify its owner. She found a total of $2,300 inside of the wallet and a Veteran’s identification card.
Gomez then took the wallet and its contents to the school principal, Sarah Smoot, and together they reached out to find the owner. In the meantime, word of Tommy’s good deed traveled fast, and his mother, Sherry O’Connor, heard the news before the school day had even ended. She sent her son a text message and praised his integrity. Her text message read, as reported by KPIX 5:
“I’m very proud of you son. Ms. Kalra called me. Wow, your (sic) one in a million. Love you to the moon and back.” Tommy even had the sweetest reply to his mom. He wrote: “You should be thanking yourself You raised me.” But it wasn’t only Tommy’s mother who was incredibly proud of him, but also his father, Ron O’Connor. He expressed pride in his son’s actions when he told the same local news outlet:
“With us living month-to-month, it is a big chunk of money and I’m so proud of him that he did that.” What’s more, Tommy remained worried that the owner of the wallet wouldn’t be found and therefore couldn’t pay their rent. According to his mom, Tommy said to her with concern: “Mom, if it doesn’t get back to the right person, they won’t pay their rent.”
Thankfully, Tommy’s principal was able to find the owner and when she delivered the wallet, she learned that the money inside was indeed intended to pay the man’s rent. A California veteran, the man subsequently gave Tommy $50 as a reward for his good deed. When asked by KPIX 5 about his selfless act, Tommy stayed humble. He said: “I’m just doing something I wish everyone else would do.”
In another interview with a local Bay Area newspaper, The Mercury News, Tommy’s educators spoke very highly of the teen. Gomez said: “He was so concerned about finding the wallet’s owner … No other option even occurred to him. He immediately knew what he had to do.”
Meanwhile, Tommy’s physical science teacher, Dipa Kalra, said: “Tommy has always been that kind of person — he’s very empathetic to other students … I called his mother and told her she should be proud. He never thought of himself, only what the wallet’s owner was feeling.”
Tommy proved himself to be a genuine and kind person that day. Not only did he not choose to pocket the money, but he continually expressed concern about whether the wallet would make it to its owner so they could pay their rent. Some people wouldn’t necessarily be so generous, especially not teenagers who might not have enough life experience to fully understand the repercussions of pocketing someone else’s money. It’s unclear what Tommy is up to these days but no doubt he’s still going through life as the upstanding young man that he showed himself to be.