Weather Updates

The modern day Good Samaritan and the bag of cash

Updated: November 16, 2011 1:31AM

We in the media can’t resist the “Good Samaritan” stories about the cabbie who finds and returns a jeweler’s case filled with diamonds or the unemployed guy who stumbles across a wallet and goes to great lengths to return it to the rightful owner.

Google around and you’ll find headlines such as:

“Good Samaritan returns treasure to stranger” — ABC News

“Good Samaritan returns $3,600 in lost tip money” — AOL News

“Good Samaritan returns money to pizza man” — YouTube

That’s hardly the story Jesus told. In the parable, a traveler — most likely Jewish — is robbed and beaten and left for dead on the side of a road.

A priest comes by — and does nothing.

A Levite comes by — and does nothing.

But then a Samaritan comes by. And the Samaritan — a sworn enemy of the Jews — “was moved with compassion ... and bound up his wounds, and ... brought him to an inn ... The next day, when he departed, he took out two denari, and gave them to the host, and said ... ‘Take care of him. Whatever you spend beyond that, I will repay you when I return.”

The point — and Jesus had a lot of good points, if you don’t get caught up in modern-day politicians telling you what THEY think he meant — was that the true neighbor in the story was obviously the Samaritan. His actions spoke louder than the ethnoreligious disputes of the day.

These days, “Samaritan” simply means one who helps a stranger — most often when someone finds treasure and returns it rather than slinking away with it.

A good carpenter

Wayne Sabaj is the classic modern Good Samaritan — a regular guy who found a bag of $20 bills in the garden of his home in unincorporated McHenry County and turned it in.

Sabaj, 49, an unemployed carpenter, was grilling a pork shoulder for dinner in the backyard of his home and decided to go to his garden to get some broccoli to go with it.

That’s when he spotted the bag.

“It was a nylon bag, filled with $20 bills,” Sabaj told Roe Conn and yours truly on WLS-AM.

“I thought, ‘What am I gonna do with this stuff?’ ” said Sabaj, who told us he’s unemployed and broke.

Sabaj says some of the bills were new and were wrapped in bundles of $1,000.

Bank robbery cash thrown away during a chase? Drug money? The most elaborate scam ever that we can’t begin to decipher?

Sabaj brought the bag into the house and told his father, “Hey dad, we got more problems.”

They called authorities. Sabaj went out and bought a pack of smokes. When he returned and police showed up, Sabaj led them out to the field — and they found a second bag filled with twenties.

If this were Albuquerque, I’d say Sabaj should expect Mike and Jesse from “Breaking Bad” to show up at any moment to pick up the cash — but as of this writing, nobody knows where the money came from.

Total loot — about $150,000.

“What am I going to do?” Sabaj told WGN. “I don’t know where it came from. With my luck it came from a bank robbery, and I’d be charged with bank robbery.”

In order to claim the money, Sabaj has to file paperwork — and wait a year. If no one has made a rightful claim by then, the money’s his. And then he’d probably have to pay taxes on it.

If the true owner steps forward and ownership of the loot can be verified, we’ll turn to another other familiar element of the Good Samaritan story: the tale of the reward. Or, in some cases, the no-reward-for-you deal.

Even though returning the cash is the right thing to do, I’d say most of us agree such a good deed should be rewarded — and it’s always a bit of a sour note when we learn the lucky owner who’s reunited with his loot then doles out a chintzy tip or no reward at all.

And whether Sabaj contacted authorities because it was the noble thing to do, or he was afraid of getting into trouble, or because he was worried about some kind of “No Country For Old Men” scenario playing out in which he’d be fleeing some really bad guys, you have to be rooting for the guy to ultimately end up with some slice of the pie.

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.