Ahead of me two police officers were talking with an elderly lady. They were standing by the lady’s car behind the store where I worked. The boot (or trunk – USA) of her car was open; it was full of stolen goods! A year or two later, at another store, where I’d become the manager, we worked hard to make it attractive and to look after our customers. Yet we had to be constantly on the lookout for shoplifters, who were attempting to give our electrical items a new home.
I’ve also worked with people who are struggling to get by, living in poor accommodation and being threatened with eviction. So I was pleasantly surprised to read a good news story about shoplifting recently. It happened in Somerset, Massachusetts just before Christmas. Two ladies at a self-checkout in a ‘Stop and Shop’ store, were caught not scanning all of the groceries that they were putting in their bags; basically shoplifting. The policeman, who responded to the shop’s call, found that there were two little girls with the ladies, and that the food the ladies had attempted to steal was for their Christmas dinner.
As the mother was unemployed, the policeman decided not to make an arrest. Instead he paid for a $250 (£180) gift card out of his own money, and gave it to the women, so they could buy their Christmas dinner at a different ‘Stop and Shop’ store. Afterwards the officer explained:
“I bought the gift card close in value to what would’ve been taken. I just did what I felt was right. It’s not about me, I just tried to put myself in that family’s shoes and show a little bit of empathy.”
Of course, many of us are in need at the moment, whether that’s of good health or rest, employment or just hope for the future. So, I’ve been particularly impressed over the last ten months, by the number of local charities, companies, religious organisations and individuals in my area, who have continued to give their all in helping those in need. Society works best when we put others first. The ancient scriptures remind us:
“Don’t do anything from selfish ambition or from a cheap desire to boast, but be humble toward one another, always considering others better than yourselves. And look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own.”
Philippians 2:3-4 (GNT)
Have you noticed how giving brings its own reward? Although we don’t do it for acclaim or profit, we often feel better for it. I remember twice helping out at a community centre in a deprived area on Christmas Day, and although I’ve had some great Christmases with my family, I will always remember those two days as special times. It was Jesus himself, who said:
“There is more happiness in giving than in receiving.”
Acts 20:35 (GNT)
May this year be a year where help comes your way and hope gently dawns for us all, as we also look out for the interests of others.