I was awakened one morning this week by a text from my wife telling me to check my car because she had seen online that our neighborhood had been victimized overnight.
Sure enough, nothing was where I had left it the night before and I was missing $60. I learned later that several of others who live near us had also been robbed, and some had lost a lot more than me.
It brought back an unpleasant memory. One of the reasons we are are where we are, in Carroll County, today, was the morning more than a decade ago when we still lived in Frederick and went outside to pile into my wife's car only to find it missing.
We got it back a week later after it was involved in a police chase and wound up in a ditch. A 14-year-old kid had taken it, cut out the child car seats, gotten rid of personal effects such as locks from our daughter’s first haircut and left numerous stolen portable electronics as well as empty vodka bottles and the stench of a certain drug that was not legal, even for medical reasons, at the time.
The car was never the same and we were out of pocket a few thousand dollars. After being convicted, the kid sent us a little money here and there until he turned 18. I’m sure he’s a most productive citizen today.
I grew up in Carroll during the days when we never locked our house or cars. And never had an issue. But I’ve been a stickler about locking up, particularly since having our car stolen.
I told the municipal policeman that when he was taking my statement but I don’t think he bought my theory that the perpetrator must have had some sort of sophisticated device to get inside my locked car. I guess I wouldn’t have either.
My initial reaction was anger at someone or several someones going through the neighborhood stealing stuff. Unfortunately, it happens all the time. I spent most of the day in a bad mood, feeling pretty pessimistic about people.
Then, I left work for the day to find my car had been hit. Someone backed into it, damaging the bumper. Perfect ending to the day, right?
Actually, it was. Because there, standing beside my car, was the person who backed into it. He hadn’t left, pretending nothing had happened. He stayed and waited for me, taking responsibility.
I could’ve probably gotten a sparkling new bumper out of his insurance company, but I told him not to worry about it. I thanked him for sticking around and felt my mood change 180 degrees.
It started me thinking about the little things people do all the time that make a big difference. I’ve had two recent examples at Dunkin’ Donuts. (Yes, I probably spend too much time at Dunkin’ Donuts.)
A few weeks ago I was driving my daughter to a basketball tournament where I would have to pay $5 to get in. No big deal — except I forgot to bring any cash and somehow also forgot my debit card. I had several credit cards and asked if I could buy something and get $5 change. The Dunkin’ worker said no. It was policy; her hands were tied. But another customer heard my plight and simply handed me a five-dollar bill. Wouldn’t even let me buy him anything.
Not long after, I lost my phone. Had no idea where it was. I tried calling it and was surprised when a Dunkin’ employee answered. A customer had found it and turned it. Didn’t take it, didn’t sell it, just turned it in and the employee was nice enough to answer it, tell me where it was and keep it for me until I could get back.
Maybe the nicest thing a total stranger ever did for me was picking up my wallet from the side of the road, even gathering up credit cards which were strewn about, and then driving about 10 miles to my house, getting my address from my license, and handing it to me. I hadn’t even realized I had lost it but I had apparently left it on top of my car while filling up with gas and then drove off.
Truth is, we focus way too much on the wrong people.
The folks who take 22 items into the 15-or-fewer grocery lane rather than the customer who gives up their spot to someone who has only an item or two. The jerk driver who cuts you off in traffic rather than the ones who let you in. The loud and obnoxious youth sports parent rather than all those who are positively supporting their kids. The guy who hits your car and leaves rather than the one who sticks around to explain.
The ones who steal your stuff rather than the ones who return your stuff. There are lots of good people out there. The vast majority.
So this is recognition for them and, today, special recognition for the good people who happen to be dads. Particularly mine.