Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Yesterday, the morning newspaper screamed this headline:
Police Charge Hodge Elementary PTA President With Theft
(You can read the entire article here) 
I saw the paper yesterday, and felt my stomach drop. Just reading the headline brought back a flood of memories from a few years back. I didn't really need to read the entire article to know what had happened, but I read it anyway. Then I reached for my phone and made a call.

See, a few years ago, the same thing happened. However, instead of it being Hodge Elementary, it was another school. And instead of it being an unknown face plastered on the TV and news while people raged and criticized and accused, it was one of my closest and dearest friends face in the mugshot.

It was a bad time. My friend was accused of taking a large sum of money from our school's PTA. Evidence was compiled, and people talked. We live in a small town, so any tiny tidbit of info is fodder for gossip. My friend lost her job within the school system, had to move her kids to another school, resigned from our community rec center where she had worked tirelessly for years and endured all of the stares and comments from busybodies. She lost a lot of friends, and her kids did too through no fault of their own. She went to trial, pled guilty, paid all of the money back and was sentenced to probation and community service. She has fulfilled all of her obligations to the community and judicial system.

Since then, she has remarried and her kids have grown up watching their Mom go through all of this and learning that you can hold your head up when you go through bad times. They also learned that people make mistakes and sometimes pay dearly for bad choices.

However, as much as people detest the idea that someone would take money that did not belong to them, especially from children, the question that most people ask is "why?" and then they usually follow it up with "I could never do that!"

Although I can't answer that in whole, and I do believe there is always another solution, I can tell you that sometimes we forget the human aspect of people.

What most people so not know about this situation is that my friend was a single mom of 2 kids with a deadbeat dad. She also took care of her elderly and ill mother.  In her mind, the money she took was only a loan, until she could pay it back. Over time however, the amount continued to grow.

My questions to those who say "I could never do that" are:
What would you do if you had no food for your kids?
What would you do if your kid's shoes had worn holes in the bottom or they had no coats for winter?
What would you do if your Mother needed to go to the doctor and you had no gas money to take her there? 
What if you could not pay your electric bill and it was about to be turned off, when the temperature is  below freezing?
What would you do it you had a flat tire, and the spare was bad too?

Most people would say they would go to a friend or a family member for help. But not everyone has that option. Many times, the family and friends are struggling right along with you, living paycheck to paycheck and robbing Peter to pay Paul. 

So back to yesterday. I shared this story with the people I work with at my daughter's school, as they read the headlines. After a few moments, my closest friend there (no connection to the friend who took the money years ago) looked at me with tears in her eyes and said "Thank you. Thank you for reminding me that we all make mistakes."

Later yesterday afternoon, another person came in, grabbed the newspaper, rolled it up and held it high above her head proudly proclaiming "This person needs to be put under the jail! This is simply  unforgivable!"

I looked over to my coworker, and our eyes met. Although nothing was said, I could hear her voice saying again "Thank you for reminding me that we all make mistakes."

In the first part of this blog I mentioned making a call. I called the friend who endured this drama a few years back. I told her how the newspaper had headlines of a story similar to hers, and that I was thinking of her. I finished our conversation by saying how thankful I was for how far we had come from where we used to be. Her simply reply, "I love you" was all that needed to be said.

As I stated before, I do not advocate theft or breaking the law in anyway. I do however, believe that we are all human and can never conclusively say what we will or will not do in a situation. We all struggle with things and we all make bad choices sometimes. I am just so thankful that when Jesus hung on the cross, He did not look at me and my sin in my life and say:

"This person should be put under the jail! This is simply unforgivable!"

I am so thankful that instead He chose to simply say "I love you".


Anonymous said...

I fully agree with this blog.
We still make mistakes and down right do things wrong. All of us are capable of doing whatever we want. It is grace and mercy that compels us to do right. It is having a relationship with Jesus that holds us back. We are all one grace away from devestation. When people judge others they put themselves in the place of God. Be careful.
Michelle you said well. God Bless you.

Anonymous said...

Yes anyone could be tempted to do the same. But most people just look at the fact that a school and children were involved and that just makes it seem so much worse. It's a bad thing know matter who it is.

Jamie said...

Beautifully written... this is Letter to the Editor quality. ;)

Anonymous said...

Just wonderful. I was informed by my son last month that he had been without work so long and things were going so bad that he even thougth ofo how to go to the store to steal baby formula so the new baby would have her food and that there have been times when they have eaten little to nothing in order for my older grand kids to have something to eat. So it is very possible to get caught up in what to do in a bad situation. He told me this after the guy he was working for at the time was busy saying how he didn't have the money to take care of his hugh house payment or new car payment or boat payment when he has lots of money and old vintage cars that he could have sold if he needed too. So again, no one knows the whole situation behind why people do what they do. And God would never say the things this person said today if He were here among us. And doesn't look down and say that on us from where He sits today!!!

lillinda said...

On the other hand, haven't we all been where the "This is unforgivable " person is?
There was once a time when that could just as easibly have been my words. I just thank God that i have come so far down that road from there to where I am now.
The road to Not Judging has been a long bumpy one,but so many lessons have been learned . Lessons that now I am so glad I didn't miss.
And in saying that, there are still times I find myself judging others, but ,hopefully, I am a lot less vocal about it and learning to think before I speak !
Great blog, Michelle. Wonderful sermon for the day ! (and I agree with Jamie)