…the story is completely different from what I initially thought. My car was recovered in a nearby town, not in Fort Lauderdale, so I’ve got 2 different police agencies working on the case and the communication has been a little crossed. It seems that my car was not so much ‘recovered’ (which implies, at least to me, that it was found in a ditch) as it was ‘located while being driven by a car thief” (which implies that the driver was caught). The latter was in fact, the case.
Our perp is out on bond right now awaiting formal charges for grand theft auto (I think it’s actually called second degree felony theft, but the other way sounds really cool), as well as driving without a license and obstruction of justice. And get this–it’s a SHE! Yes, four GIRLS were in my car when the police pulled them over. I won’t disclose their relation to my school at this point.
I have been surprised by my own reaction to this new set of facts. At no time did I hold any real hostility toward my car thief, and the only thing that got my blood boiling was the possibility that one of my students or their families was involved. Obviously that would have been a deep, personal stab in the back (I’m racking my brain trying to figure out how to help your kid find the main idea of a paragraph while you’re stealing my fricking car?!). Other than that prospect, I harbored no ill will.
But then when I found out my thief’s name, I felt an intense and sudden rush of compassion. I don’t know who she is. But seeing her name in print made me realize that she is a REAL person. This is a young girl, only 18. Maybe still in high school. She will probably end up serving a year in jail–and possibly several more, depending on the judge’s determination and how many other things she’s done to destroy her freedom as an American citizen. An entire year of her life wasted, all so she could drive a 2004 Toyota for a day and a half. Can you IMAGINE jeopardizing your future that way?!
I cannot. I did not grow up within a culture of poverty, in which you live for the now and don’t plan for the future because you’re not certain or even likely to have one. This girl has nothing to live for, no one telling her convincingly, “You are better than this. God has a plan for your life, and it’s beyond anything you could ever imagine. He wants so much more for you! YOU have to want so much more for you! No matter what your past, you will grow up and have a family, have a nice place to live, and a good job. You will be a productive member of society. You have a future, and it is not too late for you!”
I know what messages this girl has received instead. I work with female inmates at a correctional facility for juveniles. I’m there every Tuesday night, teaching and talking and counseling and praying with young ladies who have made very, very poor decisions in life. Not one of them comes from a halfway stable home. You cannot imagine the horrific things that have happened to teenage girls who smoke crack, sell their bodies, stab family members, shoot boyfriends, rob banks, and yes, steal cars. These are the same girls who have beautiful smiles and a light still in their eyes, who run to hug me when I enter the room, who tear up whenever they talk about mistakes they made in life ‘on the outs’ and deeply want to change the damaged person they have been become.
And so I feel a heavy burden for those four girls who were caught with my property. What kind of emotional and spiritual damage would cause them to act from such a profoundly self-serving, self-defeating, ignorant, and limited perspective?
I cringe when I picture what the girl who was charged will likely experience in the coming months. I have been to the Sheriff’s North Jail. I have seen the cramped cell blocks in which she’ll sleep. I have peered in the tiny ‘physical activity’ room in which she will walk around in circles for thirty minutes per day, breathing in fresh air through the windows barricaded with barbed wire. This girl will lose access to everything that means anything to her. She will wake at 4 a.m. and eat what’s she’s served. She will not be allowed the dignity of a razor to shave her legs in the shower or a sharpened pencil to write with when she needs to express her thoughts. This will continue day after day, week after week, month after month after month. She will be trapped within her own mind, with nothing to distract her or dull the pain she feels constantly inside.
She will experience all of that for the satisfaction of having had my car and wallet for 48 hours. That’s it. She made the choice to steal because she did not value the sanctity of my property or my safety or my life. And that was an easy choice, because she doesn’t value her own. She has no idea that her very life is a miracle and a gift from above. That is what breaks my heart.
Justice is a necessary part of our society, and my car thief needs to serve her time. But I’m interested in far more than having her ‘locked up’. This young felon needs to experience rehabilitation, transformation, and find her own worth. I’m praying that she may be ‘captured’ for that very purpose.
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