The Forms of Stealing

There is a shopping center in the Spokane area that we frequent often. For those familiar with these parts, the Argonne Village is home to a Yoke’s supermarket, Pizza Hut, a hardware store, and even our gym. And, like most other shopping centers in Spokane, it also boasts a Dollar Tree.

Beau and Sloan navigate the candy aisle at Dollar Tree this past Saturday.

The past couple of times we have visited this particular Dollar Tree we have witnessed shoplifting. Each instance, a person gathered their items and made a bolt for the door. These individuals knew the significance of clearing the threshold of the entrance/exit door in context of Dollar Tree’s no-pursuit policy. The company mandates that the moment a customer steps foot on the pavement outside of the store, employees are prohibited from following or attempting to retrieve the stolen inventory.

Of course the policy doesn’t prevent the employees from telling the shoplifters off. The last time this escapade occurred my kids watched as the two gentlemen working the registers that day told the woman as she marched through the parking lot, in less than diplomatic terms, not to come back.

These recent episodes are very explicit and raw ways for Sloan and Beau to see what stealing is and how it is wrong. At the same time, it is my hope that we can convey to them that stealing isn’t always so obvious.

I think most of us can admit that we have stolen too. No, it might not be a brazen shoplifting attempt but perhaps in moments of weakness we have taken more than we were supposed to, cheated our employer of time, or pocketed something that we should have turned in.

Although not proud of it at all, I have a personal theft story. While in college, some friends and I thought it would be a good idea to “take” a souvenir from a couple of the bars we would frequent. Perhaps motivated by liquid courage and the erroneous thought that the glassware supply was endless, we each managed to swipe a pint glass from two Missoula bars after we drank the beer that was in them.

Oh, they will never miss a couple pint glasses, I rationalized. This is so far removed from “real” stealing, I told myself. Wrong and wrong.

I look back now on my act of stealing with disgust and embarrassment. Those two pint glasses? They stayed with me throughout my time in Missoula but when I moved to South Carolina my parents took my collection of pint glasses (both honestly obtained and the two that I swiped) back to their house. When we moved back to Spokane, the two that I stole from the bars still had spots in my mom’s cupboard.

I refuse to drink out of them.

It is important that my children know what stealing is, the specificity with which it is addressed in the Ten Commandments, and, eventually, the many forms it takes. Although they are at a young age where I feel they just need to be aware of the broad concept of stealing, I will have a humbling example (and the actual evidence) to share with them down the road. Don’t Blink.

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