Monday, June 9, 2014

To the Thief That Ransacked My Home Yesterday: You Left Something Behind

It was difficult to process at first—the shattered French doors; the piles of scattered clothes; the conspicuous absence of familiar items. But after my initial puzzlement, I quickly grasped what you had done. You grabbed the nearest projectile, thoughtlessly smashed your way into my home, and greedily helped yourself to whatever you damn well pleased. I should have been angry.

Maybe a lifetime in Miami has jaded me to such heartlessness. In the wake of your callous act I was neither angry, nor shocked, nor bitter. I didn’t feel violated, indignant, or unsafe. After all, I’m not so self-centered to believe yours was a targeted crime intended for my family. No, you just wanted to get your hands on some free stuff. And you sure did.

As I started taking note of what you stole, I marveled at your unoriginality. Of course, you couldn’t resist the laptop in my office. Your sticky fingers couldn’t resist the allure of small electronics and cameras. And you predictably showed plenty of love for anything small and shiny. Everything you stole was most certainly destined for the nearest pawn shop. But I really didn’t miss what you took. Rather, I just found myself annoyed at the cleaning, paperwork, and hassle you left behind.

As I set about undoing the damage you wrought, I felt a very different sentiment beginning to well up inside me: profound offense. As my eyes darted around my disheveled belongings, I found myself feeling ever-more insulted. To be clear, I was not offended by what you stole but, rather, I was offended by what you left behind.

Perhaps I’ll never know exactly why you felt compelled to rob my house. Perhaps you were tired of feeling hunger pangs. Maybe you were trying to provide for your own family’s needs. Or maybe you felt compelled to indulge a deep-seeded addiction. Then again, maybe you were just bored. Maybe you just felt the unjust world finally owed you something.  Or maybe you’re just a soulless, sociopath of a bastard.

Regardless of who you are or why you did what you did, you left something in my house. Actually, you left a lot of things behind—things that could have actually improved your sorry state of affairs. You failed to properly mine our belongings for treasures that might have actually served you best. Here, then, is the short list of valuables you regrettably left behind.

Shoe Shine Kit
You found my shoe shine kit, but didn’t give it a second glance. You also didn’t take any tools from our garage. Or the professional bakeware from our kitchen.  They were all somehow unworthy of your attention.

You robbed my house at 9:52 on a Thursday morning. (Surprised that I know the exact time of your offense? More on that later…) Given your open schedule, I suspect you are unemployed and have perhaps assumed robbery as your interim occupation. How, then, could you have passed up tools and equipment that would have afforded you opportunities to find gainful employment?  In the hands of those with a sincere desire to work, such surprisingly humble things can deliver one from poverty, hunger, and desperation.

Perhaps you fancy yourself too good for manual labor. Or perhaps you have no desire to work at all. Or perhaps you simply lack good foresight. Regardless, you left behind more than a few golden opportunities.

You risked so much by illegally entering my home, why not at least learn something in the process? We had books. Lots and LOTS of books, scattered throughout every room of the house. They spanned the gamut: classic works of fiction, cookbooks, home repair manuals, tomes on business management, photography, biology, history, bartending, poetry, travel, and art. And as a proud writer myself, I think you would have even enjoyed my latest title immensely—its all about unwanted invaders.

But in your wake, they’re all still there. As we learned earlier, maybe you don’t see yourself as "blue collar." But here’s a little secret: you can avoid hard manual labor and still make lots of honest money. But to do that, you usually have to crack a book or two. If you keep treating books like kryptonite (to quote Chris Rock) you’ll never amount to more than a petty thief. Sadly, any one of our books could have been your first step to a better life.

My Pantry
I couldn’t judge you too harshly if hunger drove you to steal from my home. But if that were truly the case, you missed a golden opportunity to cure your malnutrition. You breezed right by my kitchen on the way to our bedrooms. At your convenience was a literal bounty of organic, whole foods: apples, red quinoa pilaf, sun-dried tomato hummus, black beans, bananas, olive tapenade, fresh kale, tomatoes, and raw nuts. Proper foods nourish body and soul, and cultivate a respect for self and others that originates from within. You really should have stopped for at least a quick bite.

Children’s Art
You stole toys and jewelry from both of my children. Clearly, you don’t mind taking things from minors, so why not take their artwork too? There was more than enough of it hanging around to share. You should have taken at least one piece to glance at periodically in memory of your victims.

Even the best children’s art reveals this truth: most kids have a real problem with perspective. They don’t understand perspective as a relationship between foreground subjects and background. They can’t grasp perspective as a function of horizon lines, axes, and vanishing points. And they certainly can’t comprehend the perspective of a total stranger who sees fit to violate their rooms, disrespect their property, and make off with their most cherished belongings. A little enlightenment on your part could have saved two kids a whole lot of confusion and pain.

Atari 2600
How in the world could you have left that behind? You also didn’t bother to grab my Generation 1 transformers or my collection of Garbage Pail Kids trading cards. Clearly, you’re just too young of a punk to understand what’s really valuable.  

Religious Paraphernalia
I was raised Roman Catholic, but you’d never know that today. Within my extended family, I am the heathen atheist. They would be quite surprised to know that—in the course of your rummaging—you uncovered a hidden stockpile of devotional prayer cards. I had saved them through the years from services for my dearly departed family and friends.

I’m not entirely sure why I even keep them. After all, I concluded long ago that I, personally, don’t need religion to orient my moral compass. Rather, I simply aspire to do no harm, and my actions are guided largely by my empathy for others. And I suspect most people don’t need to believe in Jesus Christ to understand the value in simply “doing unto others…”

Still, there are those precious few that somehow fail to develop a self-correcting moral compass; fail to fully cultivate a sense of empathy for their fellow man. Aspiring to serve a “higher authority” can sometimes provide the proper incentive for individuals who—like you—don’t seem to have a problem with doing harm. You really should have stolen my prayer cards, for Christ’s sake!
Running Gear
There they were, only an arm’s length from the place where you first crawled into my home: my iPod Nano and my Garmin Forerunner. And yet—despite your apparent lust for small electronics—you put no value on these devices. Were you afraid, perhaps, they wouldn’t fetch a price high enough to get you high enough in turn?

That’s a pity, since they could have been your keys to enjoying a runner’s high any time you please. A chance to swap out the chemical-fueled monkey perched squarely on your back for something healthier and considerably more admirable.  Whether or not I’m right about your drug habit, this much remains perfectly clear: you could have desperately used a new hobby.
Favorite Button
How could you pass up the greatest Christmas button of all time? Yes it’s a bit crass, but clearly neither you nor I are afraid to offend Baby Jesus on his birthday. But unlike me, you are clearly humorless—and that’s likely a big part of your problem. Laughs are free, my friend, and will ultimately bring you a lot more joy than lifting a pillowcase full of someone else’s shit.

So, sorry for your EPIC fail. While plundering my home, you somehow left the most valuable things behind. You are, without a doubt, the worst...thief...ever. 

Should we ever somehow cross paths, though, I will revert to my Catholic upbringing and happily turn the other cheek. Though you’ve taken my proverbial coat, I’ll also give you the shirt off my back. And if we ever meet, you are welcome to any and all of the items above. I am sincerely more interested in forgiveness and opportunity than punishment.

And who knows? Perhaps we will get the chance to meet. Turns out, I’ve got pretty good video of you pulling up to my house in your white, four-door sedan at 9:52 on Thursday morning. That video is now in the hands of the case detective, and I’m sure he’ll be stopping by for a pleasant visit soon enough. Looks like you overlooked more that just some good opportunities—you also left a few of our video camera's behind.