In a real life incident played out recently in my home town, the effects of the recession are made clear to a store clerk who was confronted by a desperate father.
As I have done in the past, I have reported on real life situations here in my North Texas town of Denton as they are reported in “The Blotter” section of the Denton Record-Chronicle. The Blotter provides small pieces of information about mostly mundane and normal occurrences that the police department responds to. On occasion there are some that go beyond this definition. One in today’s newspaper is both disturbing and reflective of the economic times we are experiencing.
As it was conveyed here, a man apparently tried to rob two local convenience stores with nothing more than “a small knife”. The first attempt failed after the would-be thief was told there was no money and was told to leave by the clerk. He did. “The man ran out of the store”, the report said. After police were called following this incident they checked around at other convenience stores and found that another attempt had been made on the other side of town that fit the description of the failed thief earlier.
The details of this encounter are minimal but striking, so I will convey them in a manner that will undoubtedly embellish the sequence of events but do so without trying to stretch such an outcome beyond the realm of possibilities. I know the owner of this second store from doing business with him on occasion. He is most likely of Indian dissent but could be Mid-eastern. He is always courteous and pleasant and his store is located in a part of town where he seldom experiences much traffic, even though it is located off of a main artery into Denton from Ft. Worth.
It appears that after the alleged thief entered the store he “demanded cash” but was told “there was no cash in the register.” Based on the earlier instance where the man fled in haste I’m sure the hopes of the thief were shattered at this point. He was told by the clerk to “get a job” and at the point it appeared the man broke down crying and told the store clerk that “his kids were hungry”.
A job would have been nice but because many are out of work due to the recession some have been forced to compete with at least 5 other people for pretty much every job out there that is available. I’m not saying I know what this particular man’s situation was but it may be safe to assume that he is one of the many unfortunate ones who come out on the losing end of this agonizing effort to “get a job”. It may also be safe to assume that he has been out of work long enough to be ineligible for any further unemployment benefits from the state.
I don’t condone this man’s attempt to steal in order to provide basic essentials for his family under these tough economic times. I don’t know if he even tried the area food banks to feed his children. But even if he had the news is gloomy here too because food banks run out of supplies long before they can accommodate all those who come to them in need.
With such dire prospects some may muster the misdirected courage to take extreme measures and turn to criminal behavior to survive. It’s clear this situation didn’t go unnoticed to the store clerk. I’m sure his business struggles to make ends meet and even more so following the bad weather we’ve had of late that perhaps even prevented him from opening his doors for three to four days as streets were treacherously iced over for that long.
Yet the pathetic condition that his assailant became overcome with touched the heart of the store clerk and he pulled out “a few bills from his own pocket” and gave it to the man with the small knife. The would-be thief left and the police are doing what the law requires and making an attempt to find him.
This small display of both the decency and the frailty of the human condition surely goes on everyday yet we are often led to believe that we are not our brother’s keeper by those who are comfortably well off and view any efforts by a representative government to intervene at some level as “socialism”. How easy it is to pass judgment from those whose giving falls way too short to meet the needs of the working poor and the vast new numbers on the unemployment rolls.
We should never condone crime of any kind that forces someone to steal but neither should we condone behavior that ignores the causal effect to some who take such drastic measures. We can only hope that this poor man is both scared and remorseful that he took such drastic actions and that the police efforts are restrained in their attempts to catch him. We can also hope that some of those hardened hearts who read the Blotter account of this crime will get out of it what I have here and become a bit more flexible in reaching out to those in need, even if it is a part of the social safety net implemented by government sources.