Jul 28, 2014
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A Post-Holiday Tale of Theft and Goodness

The theft of a 15-year-old's new iPhone leads to the uncovering of warmth and sympathy from the human community.

A Post-Holiday Tale of Theft and Goodness

Perhaps you’ve heard the tales of the iPhone thieves – folks who ask to borrow your iPhone to make an emergency call, then once you’ve handed it over, they run. This happened so often that on Christmas morning, when my 15-year-old son opened his brand new iPhone box, I had a long talk with him about this very scenario.

“Never loan this phone to anyone," I said. "If someone really has an emergency, ask them what number you can call for them.” He nodded, as kids that age do, but you could tell he was wondering what in the world made me so paranoid and negative.

Two days later, a young man approached him and asked to borrow his phone to make an emergency call. As my son began to put his phone in his pocket, the guy snatched it out of his hand and ran. My son followed in pursuit, and found him hiding behind a garbage can. The young man stood up, hit my son in the head and continued running.

His new phone, the one he had been waiting almost two years to get, was gone with that guy. On top of that, he was now going to have to tell his mother that his new phone was gone.

He walked into a nearby guitar store, where the guy behind the counter heard his story. He took my son out and walked around the neighborhood to see if they could find the culprit and get the phone back. Coming up empty on that score, the guy walked my son to the police station so he could at least file a report. And that’s when my wife and I walked in.

“Hey,” the  guy from the guitar store said to my wife. “What are you doing here?”

“That’s my son,” she said, much to his surprise.

So the guitar store guy was not acting out of any sense of favors for the child of someone he knew. It was just some random kid, as far as he was concerned, one who was upset and in need of help. And this guy went way out of his way to help him, just as the thief went way out of his way to hurt him.

My wife and I posted the event on our respective Facebook sites, since it is apparently the new repository for hurt and outrage, as well as photos of one’s dinner, dogs and cats.

A few hours later, another musician friend of ours was at our door. He asked to see our son. He handed him a box. Inside was an iPhone. Not a new one, but the same model as the one that was lost, and to our son, it was every bit as good as new.

Later that day, I heard that the guitar store guy was putting together a fund to raise enough to buy our son a new phone.

Our kid got a lot of lessons out of all this, not the least of which is that this rash of iPhone robberies is very real. You need to be aware of your surroundings at all times, and keep your phone stashed away in public. He also learned that he was brave enough to chase an assailant, and smart enough to back down when things got violent.

But most importantly, he learned the value of the human community. One of my Facebook friends, responding to my rant about the robbery, said “welcome to conservatism, Jim.”

While I appreciate that intention and understand its meaning, my views on crime and punishment have not changed a bit. Because the robbery didn’t end with the crime; it provided an opportunity for others to show their kindness. If I were to confront the young man who stole my son’s phone on the street, he would not be greeted with love and understanding; this guy hit my kid. I would do what I could to see that he received his just rewards. But that doesn’t mean I believe in two types of people – good guys and bad guys. I believe, in the end, we’re all people. Capable of both, constantly forced to choose.

Let’s hope most of us continue to make the right choices most of the time.

Jim Caroompas is an East Bay Patch editor.

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