A car break-in and theft serve as a reminder of blessings

December 5, 2013 

Friends asked, “Why would you schedule eye surgery Thanksgiving week?” Well, it had to do with just wanting to get it over with, a cataract thing courtesy of the top-notch folks at Duke Eye Center. And as we all know, surgery timing is more about working into a doctor’s schedule than into one’s own.

But it was all set, transportation and the whole bit. I’d run an errand in Raleigh and left the car for a few minutes. Inside, hidden in the console, were my wallet, cellphone and checkbook. You know the rest. When I returned to the car, all were gone, and the passenger window was in a thousand pieces, inside and out.

I’d been foolish, of course, believing that if you locked your car and hid your valuables, you ought to feel fairly secure. Alas, there may be honor among thieves but not much when it comes to thieves and honest people. I should have known that.

The Raleigh police arrived. In most cases, the officer said, people are looking for drug money or something that can be turned into drug money.

Thereafter came the annoying process of notifying all the credit people, killing off the cellphone and changing bank accounts, credit alerts, the whole bit. Not exactly the night before surgery I’d had planned.

But then Cousin, a man mentioned herein before and a lawyer, said something that sort of jolted those who heard it into a little holiday perspective. After I’d told him of a successful surgery and a great Thanksgiving with honorary grandkids and exceptional friends, he said, “Well, you know, the guy who robbed you is a lot worse off than you are.”

It was something with which I couldn’t disagree.

While I was canceling cards and a cellphone and a bank account and growing annoyed at waiting on the phone, I suspect the scoundrel was on the run, looking for a fence for the merchandise, dismayed that I had only a few bucks in the wallet, wondering why the cellphone didn’t work. Even if he spent all my cash, he likely was hungry and tired.

The following day, while I was under the knife at Duke getting what’s said to be the finest eye care in the world, I had to wonder whether this fellow was hiding again, lurking behind some post in some parking lot, hoping for a better “score” with the next window he broke.

It must be a life of worry and anger and confusion and sickness and sadness. The next night, I was seeing like an eagle and out to eat with friends. My guess is he was a little sick from the cold, probably living in a state of wondering when he’d be caught. Nary a peaceful, serene moment does he have.

On Thanksgiving, I was surrounded by four honorary grandchildren who spent the afternoon telling me how much they loved me and huddling around ol’ Pops and asking me whether my eye was OK.

“Want me to come and stay with you, Pops?” asked one. “I could make sure you don’t bump into anything.”

A heroic meal of turkey, dressing, vegetables, cornbread and assorted pies was laid upon a table fit for 14, all of whom answered with enthusiasm when the time came to go around the table and offer our personal thanks for our blessings.

We felt embraced by the spirits and by one another and lucky to have four kids, overcome with the holiday spirit and the anticipation of Christmas, to lead us, in effect, in our celebration. We knew as well we were lucky to be able to anticipate a glorious Christmas season with more joy to come.

I wondered, just for a few seconds, what kind of Thanksgiving the thief was having. He had been brought to his action against me, no doubt, not by a good upbringing and strong values and the reinforcement of prayers ’round the Thanksgiving table, but by quite the opposite, and that likely wasn’t his fault. And now, he was what he was, and what he likely was going to be.

If his pattern holds, he’ll spend future Thanksgivings and Christmases in jail, and his life will spiral into deeper misery.

Yes, all in all, it was a Thanksgiving superior to many others, for it brought with it, in a most unexpected way, a realization of just how great one’s blessings are.

Deputy editorial page editor Jim Jenkins can be reached at 919-829-4513 or at

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