A nine year old stole my necklace. And she got caught. Not by me. But by her parents.
I’m pretty much a judge-y person when it comes to crime. Like on those late night crime shows where DNA proves the murderer did it, I’m ready to party with the prosecutor. My stolen necklace had no dead body. So how should my judgement meter register with this? Normally when kids are shits, I’m like, “You know, you take a necklace, you lose your hand and pack your bags for juvy….” But the unexpected response of a stranger had a profound impact on me.
Kids can be shits. I’m not saying we don’t love them, the point is it’s our job as parents to guide them so they can un-shitify their actions, reactions, and responses. Right? BUT, just because a kid is a little shit at let’s say, at age nine, that doesn’t necessarily mean they grow up to be a big shits as adults who burn down forests.
Sometimes unbeknownst to a teacher, a mentor, or in this case a stranger, a kind word is uttered. That kind word which seems insignificant to that shit-child is shrugged off but it can also burrow deep like a seed sitting on the inside of them, and then one day that seed germinates and blossoms into something tangible, and the little shit kid suddenly unshits themselves and becomes a strong young adult. And it all comes back to that one kind word. That’s what I’m hoping this event inspired. This was a very weird day.
This happened last month when I was at the Funky Trunk boutique in Frisco Colorado.
Funky Trunk is a consignment boutique. For those unfamiliar with the world of used clothes, this is similar in concept to a pawn shop, but minus the criminals, the stolen goods, and the dusty flea market feeling.
It works like this… let’s say I have a pair of AG jeans (my favorite brand) and I wear them for a few weeks. During that time I pick up a side hustle, as a taste tester for Little Debbie’s and my new hustle requires I consume about a dozen Little Debbie’s a day. I end up gaining 16 pounds in two months and my new AG jeans can’t get past my calves. I paid a lot of money for those, right? So, instead of bringing them to a pawn shop I take them to a consignment boutique, like Funky Trunk.
Funky Trunk looks at my jeans to makes sure they don’t have holes or have poop stains, and if my jeans pass the stain test we then enter into a contractual agreement; if Funky Trunk can sell my AG jeans, they keep some money from the sale and I keep some money from the sale. That’s a consignment shop.
Some consignment boutiques are huge, but Funky Trunk is small shop, no bigger than a Taco Bell and when I walked in I could see everything at once. The tops were on the left. Bottoms on the right. And in front of my face was an end cap filled with necklaces.
I see my blue and white flower necklace, pull it off the display to find the price. No price tag! This is annoying for an impatient person, and because I ain’t got time for that, I move on to items with visible price tags.
I find some jeans and tops (with price tags) and I walk up to the lady at the register (not sure if they are still called ‘registers’ these days, but it’s where you pay) and ask, “May I try these on?”
She smiles. Doesn’t move an inch, but reaches her arm over five feet to pull back a heavy burlap curtain which was hiding a refrigerator box size fitting room. It was actually cute all trendy and small. I smile back and then squeeze into my box and notice there are three other boxes just like mine all in a neat little row.
The room is so small I bump the walls as I wiggle into my jeans. I hear the lady next to me jostling around and then comes a swoosh as she opens her burlap curtain and her stocking feet pad a couple steps where she stops in front of my box at the share-mirror.
There’s ten inches and my burlap curtain separating us. She says to someone in the store, “I don’t know. I think this looks good.” She stands there in a flux mumbling, “I dunno…” and “hmmmm maybe.”
The cash register lady attempts to flush out her flux and says, “I think camouflage is great for a Colorado wedding.” And someone else in the store adds, “I think so too.”
So I guess trying on clothes is a community event and I’ll also get feedback from the patrons when I go look at my jeans in the share-mirror.
When I hear camo lady move away from the share-mirror I creep out of my room and happen to glance at her. Taking my cue from the community event that transpired a minute prior I add my feedback, “I think that outfit is a great idea for a wedding.”
“Really, you think so?” she asks.
“Yes,” I replied as I looked at my outfit in the share-mirror. And then I squeezed back into my fitting box to try on a couple more things. And this is when it happened.
Now, remember I’m only five feet away from the cash register lady. And pretty much the whole rest of the store is only 15 feet away from her.
Cash register lady says, “What is is it?”
I never heard a voice begin the conversation, so I assumed she answered her phone. And I assume it’s like her kid because she didn’t say, “Hello,” with a sunshine tone. It was almost a brusque, “What is it?’ and then silence on her end.
She coaxes again, “You can tell me. Tell me, what is it?”
She waits for a reply. I couldn’t decide if I was irritated for her taking a personal call where we could all hear, or was I empathizing?
When my kids were school age and called during the workday it could be a bothersome question like, “Where are the ice cubes?” Or it could be the stomach dropper like, “My teacher is going to call you”, to which I’d say, “You can tell me…” because I want to temper my response before I get the call. And I think that’s what cash register lady was trying to coax out of her kid, it was something like that.
I wanted to be irritated and yell, “Hey, we can all hear you. Go talk to your kid outside,” but I was also curious. And yeah, I’d been the recipient of phone calls like that. So I decided empathy was the better emotion.
But then she trips me up. There’s a lot of silence on our end. I say ‘our end’ because at this point the conversation is a community thing like trying on the clothes, we are all involved, “You can tell me. I have kids and I understand.”
What? So this isn’t her kid? I can tell it’s a kid by the tone, so it’s someone’s kid who trusts her.
More silence. Then she tries another approach, “Tell me, did you steal something?”
And the store goes on pause again. And then I’m thinking maybe she’s like a klepto addiction counselor. Someone is in trouble they slipped off the sticky finger wagon, they can’t make it to their next weekly addicts meeting and they called her to confess and get help. No lie. My true thought.
“You know I have cameras and I can look at them. And it will show you stealing. All I have to do is rewind and I call the police.” Her voice was firmer, “Even though I own this store, you’re not stealing from me. You’re stealing from the community. Everything in here belongs to someone in our community and they don’t get paid unless I sell it.” (Remember how I explained it in the beginning? No one makes money until the goods sell.)
The phone call just got weirder. Who calls a store to say, “Hey I stole something from you.”
Store owner (label changed from store lady now that I realized she OWNED the place) continues counseling on the phone, telling the klepto that she too has a son that has not done smart things and he’s learning his lesson. She concludes with, “Here’s what I want you to do. You need to get help. I want you to go to your school and talk to a counselor and then serve ten hours of community service, Ok?”
She adds, “In two weeks I want you to come back and report to me.”
I’m done trying on my clothes and I hear the owner finish the call with, “Come here, give me a hug…..” Now what? How was the caller gonna climb through the phone and do that? And right at that moment I pull back my burlap curtain walk out of my refrigerator box, and what do I see?
The owner walks in front of me and around her little checkout desk and places her arms around a little blonde haired girl with a beet red face. She says, “I want you to get help,” and then the little girl and two grown ups walk out.
I put my stuff on the checkout counter take out my wallet and try to figure what just happened here? I ask the store owner, “Weren’t you on the phone? I thought you were talking to someone on the phone?”
“So you were talking to that little girl? I never heard her say anything to you, that’s why I thought you were on the phone.”
“Her parents brought her in and said, ‘she has something to say to you,’ and she had a handful of necklaces. She was so scared she was shaking. She couldn’t say a word. So, I figured she had my necklaces and stole them. But I wanted her to talk, because her parents brought her in and she needs to learn.”
I said, “You really did a nice thing.”
Someone else in the store said, “I have tears.”
I turned around and another lady said, “I do too.”
Store owner went on, “You know, if she was thirteen or older I would have called the police. But nine, she needs help. And we have that through the schools.”
I said, “I think if the parents brought her in, they will follow through and come back in two weeks.”
She said, “I hope so. She needs help.”
Store owner went on sharing with the store, because after all everything that happens in the store is a community event, “My son was caught got an underage DUI a few weeks earlier and he has to do 20 hours of community service. He’s doing some of his service at the roadkill banquet tonight.” (Not making that one up, there was a roadkill banquet. I promise you on my cats lives, it’s true.)
She explains this quirky little banquet as she’s placing the necklaces back on the display rack and says, “I must have been busy, she really took a lot.” She hangs the last final necklace on display peg. It was my blue flower necklace.
“Oh, I wanted that necklace,” I tell her. “I really liked it, but there was no price tag on it.”
I scoop it up and as she’s checking me out she tells me the price. At this point the price is irrelevant, the impact of her kind words have the potential to change a little girl’s life. And there is no price for that.
PS : Thanks for reading the whole post, I hope this story touches you as it did me. We may never know the power of our words while we hang out on this side of life, but afterwards, it may only be on the other side that someone comes up to us and says, “You don’t know me, but when I was in your store…”