“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke
“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.” — John Wesley, Letters of John Wesley
Our neighbor’s son car was stolen while parked front of their house at 4:30 in the afternoon a few days ago. An old Honda, not worth much by market standards, served as reliable transportation for this young working man. The culprits were kids with a master key (apparently) who found a moment when the son was home cleaning up between jobs. The police were notified, but in their world an old Honda does not rise to the top of the priority stack. It was unsettling to say the least, and generosity was no where in my thoughts.
No one likes being stolen from. I know that seems obvious, but it needs to be said. Again. Out loud. Stealing has become a sport, and in response we are told and sold all kinds of things to avoid “being a victim”. Like it is somehow our fault. Our fault for having things, or a reputation or even an identity that is so tempting to others that they somehow can’t resist stealing it. Non-sense. It is not our fault.
A Change of Mindset
When I have,
- earned the means to purchase an item, no matter the price, it is mine.
- behaved in such a way so as to have a good reputation, that is mine to own and even enjoy.
- acted in the marketplace and in my relationships with others so that my identity is an asset, it is mine and mine alone.
To steal and/or hi-jack these things is not only a crime or illegal, it is wrong.
I am weary of authorities, who I am sure are weary of dealing with people who misbehave as a life-style, implying that somehow I did not adequately take precautions so as not to become a victim. Again, non-sense. I grew up in a world when you could leave your keys in the car, did not lock the doors to anything and slept securely at night. Ladies purses were strictly off-limits, even to husbands and kids. Toys and bikes left in the front yard remained there safely over-night or until Mom said to put them away.
This is not selfish. This is the right of ownership. I have blogged on this before in my “Boundaries”
series, but there is another aspect to consider.
Generosity is Needed
Do not misunderstand, I know there are folks who through ignorance, misfortune or poor, even desperate choices, need help. I believe in generosity, in giving, in helping. I have been the recipient of great generosity in countless ways and have endeavored to ‘pay it forward’. We are intentional to give a significant portion of our income to do just that. This is right and correct. In addition, in my community there are places to receive help.
This includes transportation from discounted public transport
to donated bicycles
. Yes, there may be some questions in order to access these resources, and that is only right. These organizations, whether social or faith-based, are stewarding the generosity of others.
Generosity – a Privilege
By the way, because of my situation, I do not have access to these resources. If I responded to questions regarding my situation honestly, I would not be entitled. No, I do not need them, but think of that; if someone is in need, they have access to a pool of generosity that many of us do not have. That in itself is a privilege.
I suspect that anyone reading this is not of the mindset to take what is not theirs. If you are, stop it! I am sure you all know that stealing is wrong. That taking what you did not earn, purchase or receive as a gift is a violation of all that is good.
Here is my take:
- Generosity is a virtue to cultivate, but it can only be done from the giving side. When taking what is not yours, you, yourself are diminishing generosity both in yourself and in the one taken from. Think about it, when stolen from, do you want to just go out and give more away? One may do so as a choice, but the first natural reaction is to go home and lock up everything in sight.
- Ownership and stewardship of what one owns are honorable and virtuous. The act of stealing cultivates neither honor nor stewardship. It degrades into a graveyard spiral ending only in ruin, one way or the other.
- Should someone steal from you, you are not in the wrong. You have nothing to feel guilty about. Even if you left the item out in the open, vulnerable to theft, you are not in the wrong. It may be unwise these days to do so, but you are not in the wrong.
Back to the Stolen Car
We prayed the car be found and it was. The next morning it was back in the possession of our neighbor. It was found, along with another stolen vehicle overnight. Two for one. I like those answers to prayers. No arrests were made – yet. I want them found for their own good. This is not out of any sense of vengeance or even justice, but rather to stop that seed of “its OK if we are not caught” mentality. Seeds tend to grow and for the sake of these kids, I want this harvest cut down, and soon. Perhaps somehow they can be turned to cultivate generosity…..
- We have had a few other occasions of dealing with theft and although it takes time, we do not let things drop.
- We make a pest of ourselves with law enforcement.
- We do our own detective work (within the law) and have recovered our property in all but one case. (Still working on that one).
- We take the time to go to court to testify.
- We demand restitution which is part of the law in our state.
- We make it uncomfortable. Stealing should be uncomfortable. Really uncomfortable.
On the other hand, generosity is not just comfortable, it feels really good. It feels even better when done without fanfare. Begin cultivating generosity – today!
What action will you take to cultivate generosity this week? Please comment below.