I was a little girl from southern Indiana with a heart full of words and a family full of brokenness. I attended the most prestigious Christian school at my grandparent’s insistence. I wore dresses daily, shoved my nose into books, and never missed prayer.
The first time I remember stealing was in 3rd grade. Why? Emotional trauma, I would guess. I had this thing with taking home my best friend’s stuff, little trinkets now and then. It felt sneaky and exciting and funny later when I would show her what I did and give it back. Her parents did not find it funny, and I was no longer allowed near my best friend.
I was about ten years old when I began stealing alcohol from my mom’s stash above the refrigerator. I’d climb my knobby knees onto the counter, reach into the cabinet, and sip from all the bottles. She wasn’t around to miss it, and I loved the taste of peach-schnapps. I became curious about what other adults had in their cabinets, and sometimes I’d find out.
Then, cigarettes. I was smooth, I thought, as I snuck one out of any pack in reach. I still remember burning off my eyelashes while lighting a stolen cigarette on a stove. Soon, I snatched them from stores. The packs stood at attention at the perfect height. They begged me to take them, so I did, my favorite, Marlboro Reds.
You can get away with a lot if you act confident about it. Appear natural; as if nothing is out of place, people usually don’t pay attention or ask questions.
I acted confident, casual, and fearless, as kids can be. I also had an awareness of the impression I gave others. I may have looked unkempt, but I was a young girl, and I knew how to play the part of an innocent one.
I know if this story took place today, things would be different. It was easier to be a thief before the onslaught of technology. Even so, I am fortunate I was never harmed, nor was I ever caught. So I grew a bit comfortable. The thing about growing comfortable is that it lets down your guard. I became comfortable stealing little things, so my guard was down to more dangerous things. I soon joined friends in breaking into cars and into homes.
Don’t become so comfortable, at any venture, that you let your guard down and put yourself at risk.
Then, food. When I was thirteen, my mom was still around, but her house wasn’t safe, to say the least. So I made alternative living arrangements, and one was at the local university. It had several perks: The city bus dropped me off almost at the door, which was never locked. Inside was a couch to sleep on, a free payphone, free pool tables in the basement, and a banquet hall equipped with an industrial-sized kitchen.
Sometimes, if I was broke, hungry, or bored, I slipped into the kitchen and peeked into the giant refrigerator. Cakes, pies, rolls, and drinks were often up for grabs. Until they got smart and locked the kitchen doors.
Pay close attention to your surroundings. Resources are everywhere. Think beyond the traditional use for an item, person, or opportunity. Strategically manage all available resources for success.
When I was fourteen, my mom moved far away. I was on my own, and I needed school clothes. So, I did what any girl would do, I went to the mall. I left with several outfits, new shoes, a bottle of cologne for my babe, and no receipt.
I pulled it off like this: I layered clothes under what I had on. I bought a few items and used the bags and boxes to hide the stolen goods. And I swiped that Cool Water cologne right off the counter and into my pocket.
When I exited the mall doors, a piercing alarm stunned me. Trick #1 came into play: Act confident and natural. I immediately stopped and joined the other shoppers looking confused. Then I turned to walk through the parking lot, and never looked back.
If you’re questioning if I should ever be in your house; I am obviously no longer a thief. But, I still use the tricks of the trade. That thief life, though, I gave it up, and a lot more, at fifteen years old, when God stole my attention. He provided for me, in every situation, as He continues to do. He offered me a new healed reality, and I surrendered my old one. I turned to walk with Him through life…and never looked back.