Stealing from the Thief

This post won’t have any accompanying photographs, because how can you photograph something you no longer have?

Recent events have reminded me of similar experiences I had in the Peace Corps. While serving as a Health and Nutrition volunteer in Gabon, Central Africa, in a small town in the middle of the rainforest from 1996 to l998, my house was robbed twice — the first time, early on, when I was trying to make it a home other volunteers would like to stay at in their travels (I was on the train line), and the next when I was nearing my “close of service.”

The first time, every small portable thing I owned was taken — except for one of each item thoughtfully left for me: one spoon, one fork, one knife, one bowl, one plate, one pot, one pan, one shirt, one pair of shorts, one pair of shoes, one towel (and so on). It was as if the robber(s) had left me an unwritten note: There’s only one of you, so this is all you need. There are many of us, in large families; we need the rest. Fair enough, I thought. I got the message.

The country director at that time contacted me and asked what I missed most. “My teapot,” I told him tearfully on the phone. He asked what it looked like and where I’d bought it. Then he sent a “care package” to me at my post containing the exact same teapot, plus fluffy towels, and many other much appreciated goodies. His wife even added a pair of her own pj’s in pale green flannel — very comforting.

If those thieves were trying to frighten me away, they didn’t succeed.

The second time my house in Gabon was broken into and robbed they took the money I’d been squirreling away for my travels post-Peace Corps. I’d been assiduously saving the $5 and $10 bills my friends had been enclosing in their letters from the States. I’d tucked the fat wad of bills into a small, locked box, put that box into another locked container, then another, and hid this “bank” in the back of a lower closet in my bedroom, well behind my shoes.

When I got home that day I saw on my bedroom floor, lined up neatly in a row, all of the containers, opened and empty, and all of the locks, side by side. I got that message too; but it didn’t spoil my Peace Corps experience, which was priceless.

This week, my sweet casa here in San Miguel de Allende was broken into and robbed while I was having lunch with friends in town. The thieves must have been in a hurry because they could have stolen much more than they did. As it was, they smartly took the most valuable, easily portable item in sight: my new laptop computer, plus the backup (foolishly) tethered to it.

Es la vida, I’m telling myself. Bad things happen everywhere in the world. A computer is only a thing. Replacing it will cost money, but that’s only money. Money comes and money goes.

A long, long, long time ago I experienced the worst loss any mother can ever have: the loss of a child. Not to death but to parental kidnapping. When my daughter was missing and I was close to drowning in a sea of grief, heartache and desperation, I came across, as if it were a plank of wood from a wrecked ship, this saying: “The robb’d who smiles steals something from the thief.” This plank, this saying, somehow kept me afloat then, and it has buoyed me ever since.


(P.S. — I’m now, temporarily, using a foreign [to me] computer, which insists on adding links to outside sources that I don’t want there. I can’t seem to delete them. I hate this computer and mourn the loss of the one I had and loved. Nevertheless, I’ll try to smile.) 🙂 



20 thoughts on “Stealing from the Thief”

  1. Oh! Bonnie,
    I can relate to your property loss. We’ve been burglarized twice in Taos. There are amazing lessons in loss, if we can just find them. Will you carry your valuables on your person? That has its risks, too. There are no easy answers. Maybe like the saying on the plank, smile, if we can!

    1. Marge dear — Thank you so much for this. I didn’t know you’d been burglarized in Taos. You see, robberies happen everywhere, but the thieves can’t steal our spirits! — Much love, BB

  2. So sorry Bonnie. It does put a damper on your experience there. Send me your mailing address & I’ll write to you. Lots to tell you. I assume u can’t receive emails at the moment. Much love from me to you. Xo Lorraine

    1. Thank you, dear L., for your commiseration. I’m doing all right, actually, and would love to learn your news. I am checking my e-mail on this temporary [for me] laptop, and you have my e-mail address, si?

      1. Ah, Toni, your story has given me goosebumps! You’re so right — robbery stories are universal. Yes, “we move on.” Hope your stay in NYC is going well. — Mucho love and best wishes

  3. Yikes! That hurts. I feel it. I think we have all been through it at least once. When I separated I had 3 little kids and no money. My diamond wedding and engagement rings were in a safe deposit box at the bank. Then it was time to pay for the next year and I couldn’t afford it. So I had them in an envelope in my desk disguised as one of the many envelopes in the draw. Did not help. Thief found it and left me the empty envelope ripped open.

    Life! We move on. When we get to heaven no one is going to ask us how much stuff we accumulated but what we did with the life we were given. I think you will have lots to chat about. <3

  4. Oh Bonnie ! I like the way you are attached to friends not to things…
    Marty is in Paris again, I’ll tell her… Lots of love

  5. I’m so sorry this happened to you Bonnie! It is always a vulnerable and frightening feeling to think someone has come into your home and gone through your things and taken some of them. I love the quote and agree with it whole-heartedly! Thinking of you!

  6. Oh Bonnie. Lo Siento Muchisimo. It is such a violation to be robbed and I remember well how it makes you feel, as it has happened to me in years past. But you have risen above it all with your beautiful words and feminine wisdom. I love the quote. May this be the worst that ever happens to you as you continue on with La Vida Mexicana.
    Take care,

  7. While in law school, I bought a brand new Mac Book Pro for all my school work. I did not have it long, when I was walking in my house one night and slipped on my throw rug and fell on my computer, shattering it.

    I had no choice but buy the exact computer again, only weeks after purchasing the first. At the time, I was poor (I am still poor) student, and had to take out a loan to purchase it.

    I did not have the second computer two days, when someone stole it from my desk in the library in a matter if minutes while I was getting a drink of water. I had no choice but take out another loan and buy a THIRD computer in a matter of a few weeks.

    Although this whole experience was infuriating at the time, and set me back quite a bit of money, I rarely think about it now.

    I have had friends who have passed away, that I think about daily. I had a favorite aunt who died at 40 unexpectedly at 40 while she had a two year old daughter. I think about her daily. But I do not think about those computers.

    “A computer is only a thing. Replacing it will cost money, but that’s only money. Money comes and money goes.”

    Family and love is what is important and what we are most blessed to have.

  8. Bonnie – I add my condolences in the loss of your new laptop! And, the fact that someone broke into your home.
    I was burglarized in Houston twice, never here in San Miguel, thankfully. It is such a feeling of violation.
    Your quote touched my heart. I have lost a child to death, which is a finality. I cannot imagine losing a child to kidnapping. Since you survived that, you will survive anything. In the scheme of things, a laptop is nothing. Hugs!\ and thanks for sharing your latest “adventure”.

  9. Oh Bonnie….beautiful writing, as usual. Your determined resilience in the face of grief and loss brings me to tears….again.

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