Shoplifters of the World, Disband and Get Jobs

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He walked through grocery stores and I followed him. I was his ride, the driver of his getaway car. He wore a black leather jacket a few sizes too large so he could load an astonishing array of items inside. He managed to slide apples, bags of chocolate, packs of meat, and medications into the coat. They rode nestled next to his back and under his arms. The first time he revealed his talent for stealing, I nearly vomited as he hustled me out of the store. I was alarmed, disgusted, appalled. I drove away from the store as he laughed and proudly pulled each item out, waving them in my face. Could I believe it? It was too easy.

He stole on several occasions while we dated. I broke up with him after six months of idiocy, culminating in him cutting down a tree in the front yard of the house I shared with five other college students. For years, I had nightmares he was stalking me. I carried a lot of guilt about his stealing sprees. While I never stole, I helped him leave because he didn’t own a car. I didn’t say anything.

I’d like to blame it on being 20 with a severe lack of self-esteem.

I’d like to blame it on his striking movie-star good looks.

I’d like to blame it on being broke.

I’d like to blame it on feeling sorry for him because he told me about how he was abused as a child.

I thought I could change him. The tender care of a loving Christian girl would turn him around. He’d leave shoplifting behind, go back to college, buy a car, pay his bills, and become a productive member of good society. He claimed I was inspiring him to improve in every way. He was going to return to bike racing because I believed in him. There was nothing he couldn’t do without me by his side, he said.

I could see my life turning into a Bon Jovi song right in front of my eyes. Take my hand, we’ll make it I swear. But they didn’t and neither did we.

So, I drove him away from stores. I drove him to his minimum wage job. I drove him home. And when I finally wised up, I realized I had trashed an entire semester at my university, the goodwill of my roommates, and most importantly my parents’ trust over a boy; a criminal boy who was hurting and adrift and thought he found a good thing—a pretty girl with a car.

But I still think about him. I don’t wish I had stayed. I’m not pining for the past. I don’t have any regrets about the amazing man I fell in love with and married five years later.

I think about him because the trajectory he was on was dangerous and lonely. He was poor, undereducated, defensive, desperate, and young. He was someone’s son. His dad was dead. His mother was elderly. He was born when she was in her mid-40s, a surprise, and she had a hell of a time raising him, he claimed.

Somewhere along the way, he derailed. There are countless other young men leading similar lives. They are eventually jailed or die prematurely. They turn to drugs and alcohol. They lash out in various ways, often destroying the women and children in their paths as they destroy themselves.

I look at my own sons and cover them in prayer. I ask for them to be mighty and wise, to be molded into men of God who shine and love fiercely. I pray they’ll always work hard and find healthy outlets for their time and energy. We talk about honor, wisdom, and Jesus.

My mom prayed the same for me, yet somehow I was tangled up with the drifting, sad, shameless boy. Clearly, there was something in me that looked the other way at the same time I declared him my project. I thought that people could save other people, and maybe they can in the sense people can inspire.

But save? Never. The broken, the hurting, the despairing don’t need a getaway driver to speed them away from the scenes of crimes—including me. How many times I have begged for rescue from situations I cobbled together? Step on the pedal, Jesus, I can’t. I have too many steaks up my sleeve, and there are apples in my armpits. Let’s go!


Instead, he turns to me and let’s me know he is very happy to drive. He is really great at it, in fact. He’s glad I trust him. But first, let’s drop everything you’ve stuffed into that coat and leave it behind. You don’t need those things. It’s going to be okay. I feel lighter. He helps me unpack. I can move and breathe. My heartbeat slows.

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