I always thought we lived in a safe neighborhood. I have never felt afraid to take a walk, even at night, or to let my boys play outside. Although we wave at our neighbors and are happy to lend a helping hand, most of us in Heron Creek keep to ourselves. The most excitement I've witnessed in the past six years we've lived here involved a couple of thrill-seekers on crotch rockets who blazed through the neighborhood during my kids' naptime (good thing I didn't know how to handle a handgun when that happened... totally kidding!). Or my neighbors who apparently spend two months' salary on fireworks whenever the 4th of July rolls around (thank God the Saulston fire department is only a stone's throw away). For the most part, things are quiet and calm here, and we like it that way.
A couple months ago, we learned the hard way that we had become too trusting. It was a typical Thursday morning- Fernando kissed me goodbye and walked out the door for work, only to return less than a minute later. "Someone got in our cars last night," he said. He was ticked (by ticked, I mean that his face was red as a chili pepper and The Vein in his temple was throbbing double-time), and I, for lack of a better term, FREAKED OUT. Of course my mind started playing out the absolute worst scenario of what had happened during the night while we were peacefully sleeping. Before my husband had even assessed what was missing from our cars, I was convinced that every East Coast member of the Bloods and the Crips had targeted us, and that they would be back later (with machetes and machine guns, of course) to get the rest of the goods in our house.
"We have to call the police" I said, with complete confidence that a quick call to 911 would dispatch a CSI crew who would dust the cars for fingerprints and have the burglars behind bars by sundown.
Fernando scoffed at my suggestion. "What are the police going to do? We left the cars unlocked."
I was shocked. How was it possible that we'd both left our cars unlocked? Fernando is always so careful to lock everything up before we go to bed. I was thankful that our cars hadn't been damaged, but still felt shaken and angry that strangers had intruded on our property and taken our stuff.
We finally figured out that Fernando's big speaker was missing from his car, and our GPS and $10 cash were missing from my car. It wasn't a huge loss- certainly not enough to merit an insurance claim, but I still decided to call the police, just in case other cars in the neighborhood had also been burglarized.
Fernando went on to work, hoping that the thieves would show up with our stuff at the pawn shop where he works. (Now wouldn't THAT have been a story?) I put in a call to the police department's non-emergency line and reported what had happened. A lady took all of the information and told me that an officer would contact me later.
Days went by, and we never heard anything back. I was certain our stuff was long gone, and that the Bloods and the Crips were using our GPS to pinpoint the location of their next innocent victims. Luckily, my sister who follows the Wayne County Sheriff's Department on Facebook, commented that she'd seen a post on their page about Saulston break-ins. There was a number for people to call if their cars had been burglarized. I quickly called my husband, who had also heard about the post from a co-worker. (Thank goodness for Facebook!)
To make a long story short, Fernando called the number and relayed the same information that I had reported weeks before. He learned that the police had found the thieves (teenagers!!) and had already tracked down some of the stolen items. Although the GPS and cash were not recovered, Fernando did get his speaker back. We also received a letter in the mail requesting our info so that we could further press charges against the little teenage wannabe thugs. The letter also listed the name of one of the perpetrators. (He actually has a weird name, but I'll call him "Jim Bob.") Hmmmm. It took me all of a millisecond to whip out my laptop and search for Jim Bob on Facebook. I wanted to see who had trespassed onto our property; I wanted to see who had stolen not only our personal items, but also our sense of security and trust in our neighborhood.
Because of the weird name, it didn't take long to find Jim Bob. (Again, THANK GOODNESS FOR FACEBOOK!) In fact, I had several mutual friends with Jim Bob! I had to laugh as I scrolled through pic after pic of a scrawny teenager who looked like he was still stuck in the awful throes of adolescence. (Here's a little helpful hint for any would-be burglars reading this: If you decide to live the life of a true outlaw, it might be a good idea to delete your Facebook account or at least set your Facebook profile to PRIVATE!!) I was even surprised to read several posts by Jim Bob about how he had (in my Christian translation) "messed" up his life by one bad decision. Fernando wanted me to send him a private message and tell him he had 24 hours to return his GPS, or else.... :)
As much anger as I had felt towards the burglars over the previous weeks, I now felt sorry for this young man. He is only fifteen years old, still a kid in many aspects, and yet he has already charted a rough course for the rest of his life. I thought about his mother. I won't lie- it was hard not to judge her and question why she would allow her fifteen-year-old son to be out gallivanting with such a rough crowd in the middle of the night. She should have known exactly where little Jim Bob was and what he was doing, right?
But how would I feel if one of my sons had been caught breaking the law? What would I do? My boys are still toddlers, yet I still feel like an utter parenting failure when they act up in the church nursery. Although it was tempting to pile most of the blame on Jim Bob's mom, who was I to assume she hadn't done the best she could as a parent?
We can put every drop of our blood, sweat, and tears into raising our kids up "right," but eventually they will be free to make their own decisions. Eventually we won't be able to dictate their every move. We can follow every suggestion in the best parenting books, we can punish them when they do wrong, and we can pray for them without ceasing. But there's still no absolute assurance that our kids will turn out to be "good" adults. For me, this is the hardest part about being a parent. When the nurse placed my tiny newborn in my arms for the first time, I had no idea that I was taking on the greatest responsibility in all the world. I wasn't given any clear-cut instructions or promised any guaranteed results that my little innocent baby wouldn't turn out to be a teenage burglar who makes bad decisions...just like scrawny, awkward, struggling-to-fit-in Jim Bob.
Although I'm still shocked that cars in our neighborhood were burglarized and I wish it wouldn't have happened, I did take away some pretty valuable life lessons. First of all, NEVER LEAVE YOUR CAR UNLOCKED. But more importantly, NEVER LEAVE YOUR CHILD UNATTENDED. I hope that I will spend the remainder of my boys' formative years with a renewed fervor to put them first.