Thursday, December 23, 2010

Desperate times

There are a lot of people in desperate straits economically.  I live on an island where about 80% of the population is struggling.  Most of the work comes from agriculture and from commercial fishing.  Whenever possible,  I have done my best to hire local people to work on the property, either as a housekeeper, painter,  groundskeeper, electrician, etc.  

In the past,  I have had a couple of instances where my trust in people that were hired did not pan out.  One occurred when the daughter of a housekeeper we hired stole my wife's diamond ring.  This was a girl who was around 12 years old, and she would come to the house occasionally to help her mother with the house cleaning.  Luckily, we discovered the ring was missing, called the housekeeper who confronted her daughter.  We got the ring back thankfully.  

Another incident occurred when a trim carpenter we hired and trusted brought his 14 year old grandson with him to work on the bookshelves and mantle in the library.  It was just before Christmas.  The day after they left, C. was missing several rings, including her mother's engagement ring.  We called the police immediately and called the carpenter who drove out with his grandson.  The grandson admitted to going into the bedroom where the rings were but denied stealing them.  Instead, both grandfather and grandson insisted that someone else had come into the house when they were working and stolen the rings.  With the house being a mile down a dirt road and all the dogs around, this scenario was implausible.  Nonetheless,  there were no fingerprints and no way to prove anything.  The rings were gone along with a few Christmas presents.  It took a while, but eventually we were able to let that go and not dwell on it.  

Now once again there has been an incident that has brought concern.  I have had the same handy man, Thomas,  helping me for years around here.  He and I work together well.  He has eaten at our table.  We have loaned him money for an attorney when one of his kids got into trouble with the law.  He has always paid us back. 

This morning C. walked in on Thomas going through a drawer in the kitchen where I keep a wallet with cash to pay him and the housekeeper.  I had gone outside to check on the meat that was barbecuing in the big cooker.  C. said that he jumped when she walked in, became nervous, and when asked what he was looking for, was having a hard time putting a sentence together.  She told me about this after Thomas had gone outside to begin his work.  We checked the wallet and no money was missing.  I could feel myself feeling sick inside and so disappointed.  It was as if the bad experiences from the past were coming back.  

So we talked about it and decided to not make a huge issue out of this.  Instead, I asked Thomas what he was looking for in the drawer.  He said that he was looking for a piece of paper to write down a phone number.  Okay, maybe that is plausible.  So I told Thomas that if he needed something from the house to ask.  Neither of us really wants to think that he was going to steal from us.  But my gut tells me that I probably should not trust so completely.  I know that these are desperate times.  And sometimes even good people will do desperate and stupid things.  

I am processing this, trying to not let it stay in my mind and simply move on.  C. is remembering the Christmas a couple of years ago when the rings were stolen.  I can feel the grip of uncertainty lessening.  I did what I felt was the compassionate thing to do.  A  warning.  Another chance.  I think that we all deserve that. 


  1. I don't know that I would have been so compassionate but it is a time of the year that a lot of people struggle with, so I understand that you can cut people some slack. I think you would be an awesome boss, to be so understanding. Good for you!

  2. oh this is a hard one..esp with the history of trust being broken...

  3. One question: Putting the past thefts aside - had there been no past thefts - would Thomas opening that drawer "to look for a piece of paper" appear so suspicious to you?
    Sometimes what we see as "a guilty mind" is more that person's response to our suspicion.
    Is it possible that he was having a hard time replying because your wife was so suspicious of him, and he's an honest person, so didn't have the dishonest person's facility with lies of explanation?
    I'm trying to imagine myself in his position - he might have thought you wouldn't mind him looking for a piece of paper in that drawer, because you'd never imagine that he was going to steal from you. Your wife's suspicion might have thrown him for a loop - he might have found it excruciatingly painful after your long-term relationship, that she'd think that of him.
    I learned, when working in VS, that our own past experiences with crimes against us, will absolutely color how we view even innocent happenings from then on - it's a self-protection thing.
    Just offering this as another way to think about it.

  4. Thanks for sharing with such compassion. I appreciate knowing your real fears, too, Syd.

  5. I work with contractors a lot in my business and it is common to have problems like this. We have used the same people over the years for this very reason. The cases I have known people were looking for perscription drugs or something to sell for drugs. It feels personal but addiction isn't personal. A friend of mine worked on my house and announced one day that he was disappointed because he couldn't find any alcohol in the house. I found minatures in my recycle bin. I tell my customers to hide medications and valuables. These days it isn't as obvious who is using. You can't let it spoil your holiday fun.

  6. What a fucking bitch daughter, nicking a diamond ring. They should definitely bring back public flogging for that.

    Anyway I didn't come by to talk hanging and flogging but to wish you a VERY MERRY HOLIDAY SEASON


    All the best




  7. have to put in 2 posts bc too long :)

    :( sorry to hear Syd.
    Personally I think it is compassionate not to put temptation into the the hands of someone who may (because they are still very afraid and desperate in some part of themselves) become tempted to abuse their position of trust in a moment of weakness.
    For instance, there are positions of trust I would not seek to inhabit at present because I do not want to see a weak part of myself arise should I feel terribly wronged and be possessed with a strong desire to punish. Although I practice restraint of tongue and pen most of the time, I am aware that I can have a very strong desire to punish which can seem overwhelming. i have to go to any lengths to say nothing. Not act out. Just doing that requires a great deal of effort. So I am not in a position where I could act in a self seeking way in a weak moment. I feel much happier when there is nothing that I can take advantage of. I understand that we all have these tendencies, but I do not relish seeing this in myself so I avoid it by having no opportunity to abuse a position of trust. Each to their own. But I would be so horrified to see this in myself, that I would rather avoid the opportunity to take advantage. So it just doesn't show up on my radar. Its not an issue.
    I am at my happiest when there is nothing to be gained by what I am doing. I become uncomfortable when I realize that I am in a position where I could manipulate a very favorable position into existence. I tend to seek out lower status friends because of this. I am aware of this bias, but it is annoying because I do meet people I really like who have power and influence and I would rather not know about it because then its much simpler and I will not have the opportunity to see self seeking thoughts show up which I find really embarrassing. There are high status people that I really like, but the potential advantage gets in the way of my feelings for them. So I avoid them even though they are very approachable because I just distrust my motives and I would be hugely embarrassed to be tempted to use the association for personal gain of some sort.

  8. So in a way, I am very grateful for some of the high status people I know who keep their high status hidden (meaning its not revealed to me explicitly) because it allows me to discover my real feelings for them regardless of those things. Why? because I would be unable to trust my feelings for them if I were to be aware of potential benefits. I am a bit neurotic like that. I just don't know if I can trust my feelings about ppl if I know there is a potential advantage. So when they keep potential benefits under the radar I am very grateful for their consideration and understanding as it allows me to see them for what they are with the benefits not showing up on the radar at all. As far as I know. It makes genuine friendship possible. Once I know them and like them, then it makes no difference what they have or don't have, but I remain distrustful of any course of action which could benefit me, even when I am not aware of any self seeking thoughts about it. Which is a bit limiting but its something I am working on. for the time being this is preferable.

    So, all I know is that I would be grateful to have no temptation at all if I were very desperate and hard done by. Thats me. Each to their own. For me it is an act of compassion to have the cookie jar far far away. To not even know where the cookie jar is, or what is in it. Ideally to not even know it exists :) That way I will never think about it :) Its like being on a diet and someone tells you where the cookie jar is!!!! Its like torture. You know when they bring loads of cakes into work? I hate those days :) Such hard work to not eat anything.

    Anyway. too long. But thats how I feel about removing temptation. I hope that helps. Perhaps there is a way that valuables can be placed out of reach. Annoying to have to do I know, but when someone is in your home your home temporarily becomes a workplace, and so normal workplace rules apply.
    Sorry to hear of this disappointing episode Syd and I hope you guys figure something out :)

  9. Sorry to hear Syd
    I think it is compassionate to remove temptation from people who are not able to resist temptation when caught up on a weak moment. We al fail and give in to things we should know better in some way or other.
    'Let he who is without sin cast the first stone'

    So there are many ways practice trust. open door policy isn't always the best policy imo.

  10. Last week in a coffee shop I like to hang out in until it closes for the final time on Dec 29, there was a homeless guy who the owner against her better judgment had been letting stay inside all day long. We had by short strides been getting to know him.

    Three of us went outside to smoke which left him in there alone, for the first time in 6 hours he got up from the couch to go use the washroom.

    I suppose we were wrong for all facing towards the inside of the business and watched him fast as a cat steal the paper money from the small tip jar, seeing as the owner who is losing her business is 5 foot nothing and weighs about 85 pounds, I suppose I was wrong for getting her money back. It was only a few dollars but this woman out of her own pocket fed this man and would have given him the couple of bucks if he would have asked.

    No I have no regret for getting the two dollars back because I was the one who put it in there and I have no regret for taking the other dollar ninety from him that he had on him. Call it insurance for letting him out the door without me getting physical with him, which was my first inclination.

    Times are tough. One neighbor of mine told me last night he wants to start selling crack because he is broke can't get food stamps and afford any Christmas for his 3 kids. You know what Syd? As long as he doesn't bring that shit and the trouble that goes with it on my block I don't care as much about that as the thief.

    Times are tough and no one wants to or is able to help anyone anymore. Because it is easier to steal or sell crack than it is to come together as one regardless of station and use the community to keep the community afloat.

    Honestly track them who are running into their 99th week of unemployment, soon we are going to up to 650,000 people who lose the last bit of money they have coming in. and that is going to go on and on and on. Be prepared for mass hunger in the nation and everything attendant with being hungry. We are not a nation of Mahatmas.

  11. This post reminded me so much of how good people will do anything in bad times to put food on the table. I'm amazed when I know of one family in real life who bought the wife a new SUV and another one who is grateful that Christmas dinner was delivered from a food bank and a local farmer who gave them a turkey because dad and mom are both out of work and cannot find any.

    I hope 2011 will be a better one. Happy Holidays to you and your wife, and your menagerie. Just read the interview. You are so lucky to have all those dogs and cats! ;-)

  12. I so understand what you mean about susipions and trust.

    It is so complicated not to trust people. I have lived my life trusting and have lost things but I prefer to trust. It is so much easier. That doesn't mean I just open door to anyone.

    Trusting is so much more personally satisfying to me than taking all the steps to not trust.

    When Alex was using not being able to trust him and his word was the most painful thing about his addiction.

  13. Sounds like a guiding power had C in the right place at the right time.

    I pray that Thomas receives what he needs for Christmas.

    And that you both enjoy all the amazing blessings that you have together with the things you have!

    Amends are a tough bit of business, being vulnerable to someone who hurt me because of a past event that still stings. That past event is a continued mistrust in the present and power. The person who receives the brunt of mistrust is receiving not just the present mistrust but all of the resentment of my past experience in that category.

    I'm finding out more truth about that fact all the time. REALLY makes me want to believe in God and the power of guidance and direction from that omniscient and omnipresent power.

  14. It would probably be wise to keep the wallet in a different place from now on and to keep paper and pencil in the open somewhere so that if someone does indeed want paper and pencil they don't open your cupboard or drawers. You are a kind person, more than most people would have been in the same circumstances.

  15. Sometimes you do just have to let things go. Realize that people NEED and are desperate.
    But's hard.

  16. Hanging and flogging?! I was going off on one last night, wasn't I!

    Re 2nd chances I wanted to say: YES.

    And 3rd, and 4th and 5th, 6th, 7th... if it wasn't for 2nd, 3rd, 4th etc chances I wouldn't be here talking to you now!!

  17. I agree it was the compassionate choice. And I believe in second chances, too.

    Sorry to hear of it, though.


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