Tommy O’Connor is a 17-year-old high school senior from Fremont, California, who made news last week not for the reasons that so many teenagers make news, but because when given a chance to make a clear choice between right and wrong, he didn’t even blink. He did exactly the right thing.
And he did the right thing even though taking the ethical short cut might have benefitted not only himself, but his family as well. That’s because his family lives on a fixed income and is forced to go paycheck to paycheck, week after week.
In fact, on September 4, the day that Tommy O’Connor found a wallet on the ground stuffed with $2,300 in cash, he didn’t even have enough money of his own to buy lunch.
He had just enough to buy himself a 7-11 soda and one for his brother, so he walked across the street from Irvington High School to get the drinks. In the parking lot outside the convenience store, that’s where he saw the wallet.
“I didn’t count it when I saw it. I just thought it was probably someone’s rent or something,” Tommy told KPIX-TV.
But if he had counted it, he would have known that the wallet contained 23 $100 bills.
Without a thought for doing anything else, he went back to school and handed the wallet to a friendly teacher’s aide, Ana Gomez (pictured with Tommy, above).
“He was so concerned about finding the wallet’s owner,” Gomez told the Fremont Bulletin newspaper. “No other option even occurred to him. He immediately knew what he had to do.”
“Tommy has always been that kind of person — he’s very empathetic to other students,” said Dipa Kalra, one of his teachers, to the paper “I called his mother and told her she should be proud. He never thought of himself, only what the wallet’s owner was feeling.”
In fact, even after handing over the wallet, Tommy couldn’t stop worrying about it.
“Mom, if it doesn’t get back to the right person, they won’t pay their rent,” said Sherry O’Connor, Tommy’s mother.
“With us living month-to-month, it is a big chunk of money and I’m so proud of him that he did that,” said Ron O’Connor, the teen’s dad.
So what happened to the wallet? As things turned out, the wallet and the cash it contained belonged to a military veteran. As a way to say thank you to Tommy O’Connor, the vet handed his 50 bucks.
[Image: Brian Killgore / Fremont Unified School District]