“Do you know what makes me the saddest, Daddy?” She asks me from the backseat.
“What’s that?” I reply.
I had been pick-pocketed earlier in the day while out-and-about on my lunch break, and my wallet along with some cash, cards, and my ID were missing. “I guess you’ll need to draw me a new picture.” I suggest.
“Yeah.” She agrees, heavily and with an apparent sigh in her voice. We ride in silence for a few more minutes, she seeming to be contemplating the weight of the obscure events of her father’s day for which the most obvious impact was a minor disruption to the timing of our after-school pick-up.
I’d spent the afternoon making calls to the bank and having my driver’s license re-issued so that I could at the very least (and legally) collect the Girl from school. It’s a small thing, having your wallet go missing, but the ripple effect is that it pulls you out of the regularity of life and shakes that general sense of security you feel walking around and just trying to get by.
“But how did it get stolen?” She asks finally.
I’ve been working over the events in my own head, trying to reconcile the gaps between my casual inattention in the lunch-hour crowds, the dozen places I travelled over my break, and cementing in my memory the possibility that the jerk, the one who seemed to so rudely and deliberately jostled me on the escalator did so that he could more easily slip my wallet from my back pocket in the same moment. “I’m not sure.” I reply after a second’s thought. “I guess I wasn’t paying attention.”
“It will be alright, Daddy.” She says after another pause, and then in the naive optimism of a seven-year old adds: “I think you’ll find your wallet back soon.”
“No,” I chuckle and I shrug. “Probably not. But there’s nothing in it that I can’t replace. It’s just been a big pain.”
Another pause. “And I’ll draw you a new picture, okay?”
Except that, I think.
building integrity, rule 019
sympathy trumps revenge: be real but pragmatic about loss
I could hardly call myself an honest man if I wrote here claiming that my heart was not actually flaring with a tiny little fire of kindled anger tonight. Having your wallet stolen is a frustration and a pain that is only tempered by the seeming commonplaceness of the thing: “Press one to report a stolen card.” Though while it’s a minor blip in life and a frustration for me, for a kid the reality of even a little crime where little or none existed before can be an unwelcome surprise. She knew I was upset, and her reaction was to feel sorry for me and lend a supportive shoulder.
I don’t know if being pragmatic about crime normalizes it, or de-claws it. My gut sense –and that’s all it really is– hopes that an average kid who is sympathetic to the feelings of others is more likely to grow up respectful of those emotions and less willing to be the cause of them. In the same way, a sober but honest glimpse at the impact of someone who bears no such sympathy plants a seed of well-grounded morality that can be further nurtured through the inevitable and many changes that life will throw into the metaphorical path.