Jimmy was a thief.  Of course, that’s not what he called himself. 

According to Jimmy, the world had short-changed him, and he only took what should be his. He knew that he took things without permission or paying for them, but he argued that he had no choice. 

As an adult, Jimmy said he was unable to hold on to a “good, steady job.” Therefore, Jimmy claimed, the system cheated him out of a means of purchasing things that everyone else could buy.

When asked about the loss of his first “good, steady job”, Jimmy said that he was caught “taking” (not stealing) a few of the company’s products for his own use. 

“But,” he argued, “everyone did it; I just got caught.”  Subsequently, fortunately or unfortunately, Jimmy was fired and his unemployment compensation denied. Theft charges were not filed against him.

Jimmy was not lazy, but he did not have many skills, and jobs that Jimmy could perform were few and far between.  He worked whenever he could, doing menial jobs. 

Without a steady income, Jimmy started shoplifting from stores.  After all, why shouldn’t he have what others had? 

With no income, Jimmy eventually could not afford his own place, but because word got around about Jimmy’s “sticky fingers,” Jimmy was not welcomed into many homes. 

Luckily, one of Jimmy’s friends was compassionate and took him in. Being ostracized by friends and family seemed to drive Jimmy to steal more and to bestow these petty gifts (thefts) on those who no longer accepted him.  He eventually got caught stealing and sent to jail. 

After serving his sentence and being released, he stole again. He got caught and sent to jail a second time. 

After his release, the friend with whom Jimmy lived laid down the law:  “If I find out you’ve been stealing again or you go to jail, you’re out of here.” 

Jimmy cried. He had no money, no job and a record of convictions. Who would hire him now?  What was he to do?  He had nothing to fill his void.   

“For Satan finds some mischief for the idle to do.” — Isaac Watts, 1674-1748, English theologian and hymnist.  (“Idle hands [brains] are the devil’s Workshop.”)

The H.E. Lane Center for Positive Change (847-556-7538) includes the Fresh Start Program for counseling those who have been incarcerated.

Peggy Tarr

Peggy Tarr has been a columnist for the Evanston RoundTable since its founding in 1998. Born in Bruce Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, she graduated from Rutgers University with a degree...