We work hard for our possessions. In fact, some of us work 60 hours or more to ensure that our loved ones have all of the basic necessities. As a result, we are horrified at the idea of someone taking our belongings without our permission. What do we think about these individuals, better known as thieves or burglars? Well, many of us do not think highly of people that steal from others. As a matter of fact, on November 14, 2007, in Pasadena, Texas, Joe Horn shot and killed two burglars outside of his neighbor’s home. The dispatcher advised Horn not to interfere because police officers would arrive to the scene momentarily, but Horn ignored the advice and shot and killed the two unarmed individuals. On June 30, 2008, a grand jury cleared Horn of the Pasadena shootings. I overheard many conversations supporting Horn’s actions and the grand jury’s decision. In addition, people even quoted the bible to provide support for their views, Horn’s actions, and the grand jury’s decision, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need” (Ephesians 4:28).

I do not condone theft. As a defense attorney, I definitely understand working extended hours to provide for our families. In addition, I understand the desire to protect what is ours…our families…our property. On the contrary, I understand that unforeseen events sometimes occur…events that sometimes influence us to engage in activities that we could never imagine. For example, in 2007, the Great Recession occurred, and many unsuspecting people lost their jobs. Of course, the loss of their jobs was not their fault. They did absolutely nothing wrong, but the American economy was deteriorating, leading to massive job losses. Consequently, the lives that many once knew would forever change. Specifically, some families were unable to provide food for their children. In one case, a father and mother stole food from Tesco to feed their family. Particularly, Paul and Kerry Barker were seen on camera taking food from a bin. When the police officers arrested and questioned the couple, they responded by telling the officers that they took the food because they were hungry. Unfortunately, Mrs. Barker missed an appointment, causing her not to receive her financial benefits, which in turn meant the family would not have enough money to purchase food. Moreover, they would not receive benefits for over a year. Regardless, officers charged the couple with theft. According to the prosecuting attorney, the store was discarding the food because it was outdated. Therefore, the judge decided to dismiss the case because the store was throwing the food out, which meant the items had no financial value.

In this particular case, a unfortunate event occurred causing a mother and father to take drastic measures to feed their family. Some people may laugh while others may judge, but many of us are simply one paycheck away from being financially ruined. In addition, we never know what may occur. Therefore, we should not be too quick to judge someone, especially if we are not familiar with his/her situation because the same incident could easily happen to us or someone we care about or love:

“To speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,…” (Titus 3:2-7)

We all know how much our children mean to us. We want nothing but the absolute best for them, and when they hurt, we hurt. If there is something that their hearts desire, we go out of our way to provide for them, and when we are unable to accomplish this and witness the pain on our children’s faces, a part of us slowly dies. We are overwhelmed by the hurt, shame, and disappointment, which brings me to this next story. A desperate mother stole cake mix, Crisco, and frosting from a local store. Portsmouth police officer, Michael Kotsonis, located the mother but did not arrest her. Instead, he apprehended the stolen items, returned them to the store, and paid for the merchandise with his own money after the mother explained that she took the supplies because she wanted to bake her child a homemade birthday cake. Naturally, the officer did not condone the crime; however, he did not want the child to suffer. In other words, he did not want to ruin the child’s birthday. In addition, can you take a moment to imagine how the mother must have been feeling, knowing that she could not give her child the desires of his/her heart on his/her birthday? Can you imagine the pain and disappointment that she probably felt? Moreover, we do not know her situation, and even if she is in the situation because of poor decisions, can we take a moment to show some compassion for her simply because she is a human being and child of our Lord and Savior? Again, I am not condoning theft. Instead, I am showing compassion and empathy for a hurting mother:

The apostle John asked, “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” (1 John 3:17).

We are obligated to love our neighbors. However, we sometimes miss opportunities to relieve their pain because we are unaware of their needs and lack empathy. Remember, empathy is what leads us to kindness and compassion for others.