“You shall not steal.” Sixth Commandment.
Yesterday while shopping at Sam’s Club, an elderly lady in her late sixties or early seventies was leaning over a refrigerated reach-in containing small plastic containers of boysenberries, inspecting their contents.
She had an earbud in her left ear, so I assumed she was listening to music. As I slowly approached the area, I noticed her opening up one of the containers and then another one. She reached into the second one and began scooping up handfuls of boysenberries and cramming them into the first one.
When she was done, she closed both containers, placed the packed one into her basket and started moving away from the reach-in. She suddenly noticed me watching her.
I was stunned by this theft and said to her, “Ma’am, that is not a good thing you just did.” The emotionless expression on her wrinkled face did not change as she replied, “Yes, you’re right.” She continued with her shopping, acting as if I had just wished her a good afternoon.
I walked over to her spot by the boysenberries and saw the container she had been grabbing from…it was noticeably lacking in the small fruit when compared with the other ones. That old lady was a thief.
Bothered by this, I became even more agitated that I failed to do anything but make the one comment to her; like anything else, when you are caught off guard by something like this, you don’t always react in the way you would have if given time to think it through.
I continued shopping for about an hour and then went to the check-out line, noticing the thief standing in line at the other end of the check-out stands. Approaching the cashier, I asked her if there was a manager on duty and explained my reason for asking. She pointed to a lady ordering a slice of pizza and said that was one of the managers about to go on her break.
I approached the manager and explained what I had witnessed. The thief, evidently seeing us talking, began moving across the store and I could now only see the back of her head. She soon disappeared.
We walked to where we had last seen her but she was gone. I briefly walked around the store for but could not locate her. She had accomplished a magnificent disappearing act.
The manager thanked me. I paid for my groceries and left, still bothered by what I had witnessed. Why would an elderly lady do something like this? Clearly, this was not the first time for her thieving ways, but at her advanced age? Over a handful of boysenberries? What else was this lady in the habit of stealing?
This is a sad case because it points to the depressing reality that this old lady has probably been a thief since her younger days. It is possible that she has a long arrest record for shoplifting. When I asked her that question, she did not look concerned or surprised at all that she was caught in the act, like it happened every day.
Nor did she immediately leave the store when I confronted her, but went on her merry way; she probably knew, from long experience, that nobody would say a word to anyone in charge, especially because she was elderly. One would have thought that she would have left the store as soon as she was caught in the act, and the fact that she didn’t only raises additional disturbing questions in my mind. What was the reason for her confidence? Did she not fear getting arrested? Did she lack shame at being caught?
Many people are under the delusion that when we get old we automatically possess wisdom; nothing could be further from the truth. What is true is that we die as we have lived, and if we have borne the burden of living a righteous life in our youth, we will carry that righteousness into our golden years.
And the opposite is equally true: if we have lived an ungodly and wicked life in our youth, we will live out our golden years full of ungodliness and wickedness. Age does not transform us into saint if we have lived as the devils do in our youth. Rather, we “reap what we sow.”
Let’s pray and hope that this elderly thief repents and ends her life walking the path of truth and righteousness. Her eternal destiny, at this point, does not look promising.