Citizen Staff Writer
By DAVID L. TEIBEL and RYN GARGULINSKI
Luis Jaramillo’s mother is ill and has missed work recently.
He’s 17, an age at which youths are notorious for pranks and parties.
The Tucson teen found a wallet with $229 inside and no one would have known the difference if he’d kept the cash and dumped the wallet in the trash.
Rather than take the money, Jaramillo, who spotted the wallet Sunday in the parking lot at the North Cortaro Road Wal-Mart near Interstate 10 where he works, turned it in to his manager.
“I didn’t want to run and take it,” Jaramillo said. “That’s not the way I was raised.”
He said he stared at the wallet for a long time, thinking how the money could help the family. But keeping it wasn’t an option, he said.
There was more than just money inside.
“It had my birth certificate, baby pictures, my Social Security (card), shot records . . . everything, everything was in there,” said the wallet’s owner, Elizabeth Robinson, who has two youngsters, one a month old and the other 5.
“It was not the money I was worried about,” she said. “To have everything back, I was just, ‘Wow.’ ”
What wowed her most, she said, was when she thanked Jaramillo in person after Marana police called to say Wal-Mart management turned the lost wallet over to officers.
“He was just entirely too young to have done something like this,” she said of Jaramillo. “It was just amazing.”
Robinson, who wasn’t sure how her wallet ended up in the parking lot, said its return renewed her faith in teenagers.
Asked if she would continue to carry around so many personal documents, Robinson laughed and quickly said, “I got a new place for them now.”
Jaramillo responded quickly, too, when asked if he’s been known to assist others.
“I’ve helped out senior citizens that have walking problems get into their cars when I’m working,” he said.
Jaramillo works collecting shopping carts from the store’s parking lot.
During the early part of the day, he attends special classes for slow learners at Mountain View High School, said his mother, Miriam Jaramillo, 52.
While his job has given him several chances to help others, Wal-Mart policy prohibits employees from accepting rewards for found property, his mother said.
That’s her policy, too.
“He was doing that from the bottom of his heart. That’s the way I raised him. I don’t want him to take money from the lady. I want him to know he’s doing the right thing,” she said.
“I don’t think I should get a reward,” he said. “I felt good. I did a good thing. I came home and told my brother and my mom and they told me how proud they were of me. That made me feel very good.”
The feelings were mutual.
“I’m very sick right now, but the things he’s doing make me feel good,” his mother said.
As for others his age who may stumble across found money, the teen dispenses the following advice: “Don’t go out like a criminal. Don’t be like them. That’s pretty bad. You get only one chance at life.”