So, as it turns out...

..the story is completely different from what I 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 bondage does the enemy have them in, that they acted 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 she is a precious child of God. That is what breaks my heart.

We serve a God of justice, and my car thief needs to serve her time. But our God is also full of grace and mercy. This young felon needs to experience rehabilitation, transformation, to find her own worth and be changed from glory to glory. God may have 'captured' her for that very purpose.


Anonymous said...

I am so sorry to hear about what happened to you. However, I appreciate your positive outlook on the whole situation. Since I was in school to be a teacher, your website has helped me tremendously and the fact that you are a sister in Christ makes it even better. Sometimes, when it rains it pours, but you can't have the sun without the rain! Thank you for all you do for us fellow teachers and all you've done for your students!
You're great!

Anonymous said...

See, I knew there was a lesson in here for you and you hit the nail on
the head with the compassion you feel for someone even though she
violated you in a major way. THIS is why it happened to you, God
always has a reason.

I am the safety sponsor at my school this year so I monitor the
safeties who cross our students before and after school (we have one
bus at our school and that is strictly for our autistic students --
everyone else either walks or are driven by family). We just had a new
school built on the back corner of where our former building was. At
the end of August, they finally tore the old building down and are
grazing that area for a parking lot. I was standing on the back corner over by the old building with my safeties and we witnessed 3 teenage boys trying to steal the car of one of the construction guys. It was 8:20 in the morning, right out in broad daylight. It was unreal. My school is in a "rough" area (someone was killed on one of our street corners about 4 years ago) but I have never felt unsafe there. Then I saw that with all of those innocent children out there who could be witnessing this as well (and some who did because they were standing with me!) and realized that I was pulled to work at that school to show my kiddos that stealing and making those poor choices are NOT the only options they have.

This will change you, for sure, but it sounds to me like it will
change you (and the women you serve at that juvenile center) for the