There is nothing more likely to incite anger in the community, than petty theft. Especially when most of us work hard to purchase sought after or sentimental items and build a sanctuary where we can relax and enjoy the fruits of our labours. When something is stolen, we feel violated and angry. New homes, like the one I moved to recently, are often targets for criminals and petty theft.
So it was while relaxing this Friday, secure in the knowledge that this week’s Friendly Friday Photo Challenge, Simple Joys, was in the very capable hands of first time host, Sandy, from The Sandy Chronicles, that I was dragged back to reality by a car horn, blasting urgently, outside my door.
Something was clearly very wrong.
A thoughtful neighbour had pulled up outside in his car, to alert me that our garage door was open, and with no MotH in sight, they’d seen a stranger dressed in black, carting out two large carry bags from our Home by the Sea.
Glancing up the laneway, near the house, I indeed saw a figure dressed in black, carrying two large bags and talking on a mobile phone. Oh dear, I thought, has he taken some tools or something of value from the MotH’s garage?
Quickly shouting thanks to the neighbour, and with the MotH still nowhere in earshot, (despite me earnestly yelling his name), I approached the stranger cautiously, trying my best to look as if I was going for nothing more than a casual walk.
“Yeh, it is me. Come now. I’ve got some really good stuff,” I overheard this figure mutter into his mobile phone.
Oh goodness! What has this dude stolen? I thought.
My mind was racing, imagining all sorts of things. Where was the MotH when I needed him?
Should I go back and find him first?
Should I shut the garage door and ring the police?
Totally dumbstruck for the correct protocol to use when approaching a potential thief, I tentatively asked,
“Hi, can I help you? Are you looking for something, or someone?”
“Oh, Hi, yeh, umm, I’ve just been collecting bottles for recycling,”said this young man of about 30 odd years, pointing to the bags.
“Have a look,” he said, sweating heavily and clearly picking up on my suspicions.
I approached a little closer and peered into his carry bag to see an array of plastic bottles, the sort you take back to the containers for change refunding collections centres, for the paltry refund the government has introduced.
“And I’ve got electrical wiring, too” he said, opening up his second bag to show me.
” It is heavy, I reckon about 26 kgs,” he continued, offering for me to feel its weight. It was indeed heavy and he’d revealed he’d carried it for several kilometres through the new estate.
“All these new houses, the tradies just chuck away stuff that can be salvaged and reused,” he explained.
Smiling, and offering me his hand, he said, “My name’s Daniel,” revealing a single yellow tooth, “..and so now you know, I’m not pinching stuff. Just trying to make a few dollars. I can’t get work, you see, and I get so bored watching TV.”
Daniel proceeded to tell me he spends his days painstakingly removing all the plastic covering from the excess electrical wiring he salvages from the dump bins on building sites. Then sells the wire to the scrapyard in the neighbouring suburb.
My heart sank as he filled in yet more details of his life, seemingly eager for someone to listen to him. As a young lad not endowed with a great start in life, education wise, and few real opportunities, he had fallen into the wrong crowd some time back, and it didn’t end well.
“I have had so much crap in my life,” he said.
He told me he’d experienced periodic work but physical disability, homelessness and long term umemployment had dogged him for many years, until bad friends finally landed him foul of the law.
“I found out the hard way no friends are better than bad friends,” he said, his eyes downcast.
“Now I just try to do something good with my time.” he muttered philosophically. “You only have one life.”
“So I am not pinching stuff,” he reinforced again, suddenly serious and looking me in the eye, in case I doubted him. Instead of walking away, I stood there listening to him tell me his heartbreaking story and felt ashamed for initally thinking the worst of him.
Praising his efforts to help himself and and reduce the truckloads of Builder’s waste, I see around me every day, we shook hands and I promised to set aside plastic bottles and cans, for him to collect on his next run.
Here was a young man who had been through the wringer of life and was doing his best to become pro-active and do something to help himself and the planet.
Daniel was alright.
You can’t always judge a book by its cover.
Showing kindness to a stranger is infectious and costs nothing.
All of us would like to be listened to.
In case you were wondering what happened to the Moth, he was apparently completely aware that Daniel and I were chatting. He told me later that he had indeed poked his head around the corner, seen the conversation and causally waved a power drill back and forth, in his hand. A moment passed between Daniel and the MotH, and the MotH seemed certain Daniel had noted the power tool armed and ready!