As summer officially draws to a close the back-to-school photos begin to flow across social media. Digital images create a perfect storm of cuteness, lunch boxes, backpacks and bright new shoes.
Every year I enjoy seeing the creativity of families and smile at all the positive goals being set for a new school year. Many families work hard to provide a fresh start each year for their children. Many teens work summer jobs to help build funds for the school year, savings for college or new clothes.
It was the first Tuesday in August, the National Night Out, an evening where community and law enforcement renew partnerships to create safer communities, but someone had other plans.
Just days before the start of school a friend’s post on social media troubled me. The teenage son of a working mother of six had inadvertently dropped his wallet on the street as he checked his family’s mailbox. A passing car, apparently driven by a sharp-eyed, weasel of a human being, noticed the teen’s wallet and decided to snatch it.
Minutes later the teen realized a car was speeding off with the money he had earned working for a Culpeper based-USDA summer food distribution program all summer. The money he earned was slated to help pay for clothing, shoes and other expenses for the school year.
He has a large family and every bit of extra money helps alleviate expenses for his family. He is a quiet, hardworking, athletic teen who deeply cares for his family and community. The incident could easily have changed his view of the world—made him feel like life was stacked against him.
For a few hours the world seemed very cruel. A teen’s worldview can pivot at moments like this. He was unsettled by this drive-by thievery and devastated to see a summer’s worth of work erased in minutes by a random act of evil. He lost over $500.
Here’s where the story shifts. A friend and colleague spotted a social media post from a justifiably upset mother. This empathetic lady formulated an impromptu plan to replace the teen’s stolen money with a grassroots effort.
In the hours that followed nearly 50 colleagues, neighbors and strangers mobilized an online drive to replace the stolen funds. A Go Fund Me account was established, and good-hearted citizens answered the call. In a few days this band of kind people erased the damage a thief had inflicted on a young man.
“I hope that he will see that there are good people out there who care enough to fix a problem created by an evil act,” said one contributor. “I hope that he sees that most people are good and have a heart. I hope that he realizes that people care about injustice.”
This past weekend the lady who organized the charitable effort presented the teen with enough money to cover his loss. A grateful hug from the young man spoke volumes.
The victim of this random crime learned a valuable lesson that good people still outnumber bad people in this world despite what we often perceive. He also discovered that a community had heard about his loss and responded.
My experience at Fishburne Military School as a young man taught me many life lessons. One of its best lessons came from a simple Honor Code that we memorized.
“A cadet (aka person) will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those who do.”
Our society would be better served if we all lived by that code.
I have always believed that a tiny segment of the world’s population makes life harder for good people. Never let that small group of truly bad people break our will to make this a better world.
This week, the power of kindness prevailed and a teenager’s faith in his community was rescued.
We should be proud of our community for standing up for a great young man in a time of need.
Who were these local heroes?
They do not seek glory…just know they are out there.