READY: My ‘no-good-deed-goes-unpunished’ story
I should get a tattoo on my forehead. One that says, “STUPID.” Or, if face space allows, “Feel free to steal from me.”
Like most of my good deeds that don’t end well, helping poor Jeremy seemed the thing to do. I needed a handy man at my car lot, and he was desperate for a job. According to his sad story, his ex-wife had cleaned out the bank account, sold all his possessions, run off from Indiana with his two little boys, and re-located in Crestview. His mama had driven him all the way to this area to see his children again. Jobless, car-less, and money-less, he was a pitiful picture of a young man starting over after great loss.
The original plan was for him to stay in a motel just down the street from the lot. He could walk to work and use a nearby coin laundry.
But, oh yeah, he didn’t have the money for the motel, so STUPID ME said he could stay in my spare room for a month until he got his first paycheck. And STUPID ME gave him a car from the dealership to drive to work. STUPID ME also fed him dinner every night and did his laundry. (Do I hear you laughing at me out there?)
All went well for two weeks. He worked hard at the lot, helped me around the house, and did yard work. He was quiet and polite. He even paid me a little rent. On the weekends, he brought his two little sons (age 2 and 3) to stay, and I enjoyed their being here.
Then, things changed.
He often didn’t show up to work or was late. When he was there, his efforts were half-hearted. He disappeared for days and then re-surfaced, telling tales of shared custody troubles and abuse from the ex-wife.
Finally, I told him to seek housing and employment elsewhere. I said he could keep working for me until he got another job. But he had to move out of my home. He happily agreed.
On the final day he was in my house, I was at church while he was moving his things out. His two children were with him.
The next day, Monday morning, I opened my jewelry box.
It was empty.
Gone was every piece of jewelry Frank had ever given me. Worse, Jeremy took my late husband’s wedding ring and my Dad’s wedding ring. Gone, as well, was my original engagement ring and wedding band that I’d had since my marriage 49 years ago. The garage was missing a chain saw and several expensive tools of Frank’s.
I called the sheriff’s office immediately. Within 10 minutes, Officer McLeod arrived and stayed with me all day as he tracked down pawn shops across the county. He found some of my items in Fort Walton and accompanied me to the store to identify them. Jeremy had pawned them at a shop open on Sunday and took his baby boys with him to do his dirty deal. I hope those children were unaware how Daddy used them to convince the owner that he was a grieving single father having to pawn his dead wife’s jewelry in order to feed his children.
During the day’s on-going drama, my business manager called Jeremy to come to the lot to collect his last check and to offer him a car to get back to Indiana. The car offer was made because Jeremy said his brother had been in a horrible accident and was not expected to live. A phone call to mama back home confirmed there was no brother on life support.
Hearing this, the deputy drove with me to the dealership and then waited patiently outside the bathroom for Jeremy to come out of hiding. The handcuffs went on immediately and then the waltz to the back seat of the deputy’s car. Another few minutes and Jeremy, who had already packed his stuff in our loaned car, would have been on his way out of state. Instead, he is a “guest of the county” as the saying goes. Thanks to a diligent deputy who stayed one step ahead of the rascal.
I’m currently getting teased by those who know me best that I’ll probably pay his bail and beg the judge to let him go.
I’m ALMOST that gullible. I’ve always been guided by God’s directive: “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions.”
The Bible does not, however, tell us how to feel when the person we help steals from the very hand that reaches out to them. But the Lord’s Prayer says to forgive Jeremy, so I can at least do that.
I’m either just a nice person, or I’m very stupid. I’m leaning toward the latter.
Mary Ready of Destin is a twice-retired English teacher and long-time area resident. Her columns are published on Saturdays.