Stealing My Safety

A few weeks ago someone stole our grill. They parked their car at the end of our well-lit driveway, walked past our two parked cars, picked up the grill on the other side of the bedroom window behind our bed, shoved it into the trunk of their car, and drove away. It was 10:30pm and we had gone to bed five minutes earlier. The only sound the thief made was a thump as he tried to fit the grill in his trunk, alerting the dogs. Michael got up to look, saw the car, and only realized what had happened when he saw the wheels of our grill sticking out of the trunk as the thief drove away.

It was a $60 grill.

I was angry for days. I couldn’t believe someone would be so bold. I couldn’t believe the dogs didn’t bark earlier. I couldn’t believe we hadn’t heard anything.

I felt jumpy the next week. I kept the doors locked and the blinds open, and I watched every car and pedestrian that passed the house. I didn’t run or walk the dogs in my neighborhood. I signed up for daily emails listing robberies in my neighborhood. I felt suspicious and unsafe. What if he came back and tried to break into the house?

I wanted to get a shotgun and a pit bull and install cameras and floodlights around our house. I felt like the Clint Eastwood character in Gran Torino.

A few years ago someone stole the hanging flower baskets off our front porch. Michael left the ladder out one night and we saw the footprints the next morning through the backyard where someone had walked in from the alley and taken it. I was angry those times as well, but not like this. This was a seething, vengeful, pit-of-your-belly type of anger. I wanted to catch the thief and spit in his face. And worse.


I got over it, but it took awhile. It felt personal, but I was thankful it was only a cheap grill. It made me think, however, about why I felt so angry.

Years ago, when I was a single mom finishing up my college degree and living in student housing on campus, I came home with both kids and a few sacks of groceries. I took the kids and some bags upstairs to our apartment, and left the rest downstairs. When I came back the groceries were gone. Surprised, but not angry, I remember thinking to myself, “Well, someone must have needed that food more than me.” As I walked back upstairs, the hall director came running up the stairs with the missing groceries. He was prone to pranks.

There’s no way I would be that magnanimous today. Look how I reacted to someone taking our grill. What had changed?

What does this say about me, that stealing something stupid like a grill would make me want to go Rambo? And what does it say about our world, when you would risk jail time or getting shot over something that insignificant?

I was shocked when I started reading the police reports for my neighborhood. Apparently there are a lot of houses and cars being robbed. Even more alarming are the increasing numbers of armed robbery.

And it’s not just my neighborhood, it’s all over the city–and probably the entire country.

The guy who stole our grill was a pro. Stealing is his job. It was too dark to see the grill from the street, which means he had seen it earlier when the cars were gone and came back later when we turned out the lights.

Is this what happens when there aren’t enough jobs to go around? I doubt it. There always have been and always will be people who steal.

The worst part of this minor, insignificant incident was the way it suddenly made me feel distrustful and suspicious. Losing the grill was unimportant. Losing my feeling of safety was huge. I like to think that people are inherently good, and that if I’m careful and observant I’ll stay safe. Having something stolen, no matter how small, reminds me that there are others out there who are lost–and dangerous.

And this is perhaps what made me so angry, that my view of the world could be wrong. I’m not so naive as to imagine the world is like a Disney movie, where the good guys always win and the bad guys always get caught. I’ve known bad people. But knowing there are people who make their living by stealing and threatening and physically hurting others makes me angry. I want them to go away and be better people.

I read a report of an armed robbery a few blocks from my house. A man was walking back to his car from a restaurant and was accosted by two young men with a gun. They got angry because all he had was $23 in cash and an iPhone.

If you would hold a gun to someone’s head for $23, and be willing to take a life for an iPhone, then your own life must be worthless.

And that is truly heartbreaking, for all of us.


  1. John

    I was cooling down on a nearby field this morning, I was just coming out of a stretch and I saw a bicycle hidden in the bushes. It was probably stolen and used as transport by the local drug users.

      • John

        Some people will steal anything. I once saw a guy being arrested after shoplifting in a shop were everything costs £1. If they can sell it, they’ll steal it.

      • Mind Margins/Run Nature

        I know, it’s so sad. I used to tell my students that it would be easier to do something honestly the first time than to spend three times the amount of time trying to cheat, lie, or steal. Being bad takes way much more effort.

  2. skippingstones

    I was thinking the same thing – they staked out exactly what they wanted and change back later. Quick in and quick out. The thing that happens to me is that I feel targeted. I understand that it’s probably a (hopefully a) one time deal, but it makes me feel like I’m being watched or stalked or something. It’s impersonal to them, but it feels highly personal to me. Being a victim sucks. No wonder you felt like Rambo; that’s better than feeling helplessly victimized.

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      The worst was when I got my purse stolen in a bar when I was in college. I had just bought a new purse, had $100 in tips from earlier in the evening, and had just set it on the ground to hug a friend. It took 15 seconds for it to disappear. We ran to the bathrooms and all the exits but it was never seen again. We checked the trash cans, hoping they had taken just the wallet and ditched the rest, but no luck. I have never felt so victimized. That’s probably why I have zero tolerance for thieves.

      It was a big deal in my classroom if I caught anyone stealing. I used to tell my students if there was a book in my classroom they just couldn’t live without, all they had to do was ask. But if I caught them not asking first, or borrowing it without returning it, they knew they had lost my trust. Sounds harsh, but quite a few kids needed to learn that lesson.

      • averageinsuburbia

        I had my purse stolen several years ago. I used to go to the gym and tuck it under my seat in the car. There had been some thieves looking for women pulling into the gym and they would go to those cars and look for purses. The suggestion from police was to put your purse in the trunk. This particular day, I put my purse in the trunk AT HOME. It didn’t matter, my purse was stolen from my trunk. It was the most expensive purse I had ever purchased and besides that of course all my id and banking stuff was in there AND a flash drive that had my diary.

        I’m sorry about your purse and I’m sorry about your grill and I’m sorry about your flower baskets too! To have someone just stroll onto your property and take what you have worked hard for is infuriating!

      • Mind Margins/Run Nature

        I’m sorry you got your purse stolen, especially when you did everything right. I’ve had quite a few friends (and my son) who’ve had things stolen from their trunks. I try really hard not to keep anything in the car when I go somewhere to run–but that doesn’t mean they won’t smash a window just to look. I didn’t care so much about losing the grill, but knowing someone had been in our yard (again) creeped me out. And the fact that he didn’t get caught really ticked me off.

      • skippingstones

        It is sad for those people who think nothing of stealing. I don’t feel sorry for them, but I can’t imagine living a life like that – not caring what is just, or compassionate, or caring. Being so selfish. I don’t pity them, but I am sad for them, if you know what I mean.

      • Mind Margins/Run Nature

        Actually, I do know what you mean. Their lives must be so empty, and they must truly feel worthless to have to get by stealing other people’s things. You can’t feel good about yourself if you’re holding a gun to someone’s head. Or maybe I’m being naive and they just really don’t have a conscience.

      • skippingstones

        I definitely think there’s some of both out there. Plus people who are never taught that it’s wrong (or worse, trained that it’s perfectly fine and normal). Either way, I’d hate to be them.

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      Thank you. I’m over it now, though I did feel like putting a big sign in my front yard saying:

      To the guy who stole my grill: Have a GREAT 4th of July, and be sure to eat a hot dog for me since I can’t!

      • beansprowtcrocodile

        Lol! Very ironic, but at least it means you were gracious enough to just let it go. I feel bad for you, not about a $60 grill – but that fact that someone could be that BOLD! It’s mental, I mean, I think I live in a quiet house in the countryside, yet anything could happen!

      • Mind Margins/Run Nature

        Yes, it was the boldness of the act that really ticked me off so much. I like to think I just have a strong sense of justice, and it bothers me when people get away with things without consequences. Bad things can happen anywhere–but it was just a grill.

  3. monica

    hello mind margins! i had to add you to my blog list because i love reading your blog and i miss it sometimes because i have to remember to go to it. sorry about the theft – but loved the insightfulness of the post.

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      Thanks, I love your blog as well! Aw, well, it was just a dumb grill. There are worse things in life than getting your grill stolen two weeks before the Fourth of July, but it took me three years to get Michael to buy a grill and convince him he needed to grill me some burgers and brats!!!

  4. melissabluefineart

    I love your blog too, and I know what you mean about the rage of being robbed. Awhile ago our cars got broken into. The thieves didn’t get anything of value, but the police explained that the guys (caught) were pizza delivery drivers. They would check out people’s cars and habits (we didn’t always lock ours) and then come back later. Makes me angry and creeped out all over again, just thinking about it! What a violation. Ever since, I’ve had it in the back of my mind that someone could well be watching me and my house. Come to think of it, maybe a shotgun would be good…..

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      I know people like that have always been around, but it’s just wrong. I’m thankful that my house or cars weren’t broken into. And that’s great that your guys got caught. Knowing ours got away still burns.

  5. imarunner2012

    I had someone steel a 20′ ladder out of my backyard. It was suprising to go look for it one day, and it was gone. I looked around the house for the few other places I could stash a 20′ ladder and then realized it had been stolen. Stealing a ladder in broad day light can’t be easy.
    It’s not so much the cost of these items, it’s the feeling of violation. Of being the prey. Someone saw what I had, made a plan and took what they wanted.

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      I feel exactly the same way. It makes me feel like I’m being watched, which is creepy. We also had a ladder stolen a few years ago that was unintentionally left outside one night. It was right outside our bedroom window. It had rained earlier and we could see the footprints through our backyard.

      • imarunner2012

        It is creepy. At least when you go to the Zoo and the lion is looking at you, you know he is stalking you. When you wake up in the morning and something is missing from you yard, you realize you were unaware of someone watching you.
        The feeling of being unaware is disconcerting. Did I miss something? Will I miss something next time and could it be more serious next time?
        I’m often aware that there is an unsavory element all around me. I’m just lucky to be unaware of it and for the most part not directly effected.But it is there.

      • Mind Margins/Run Nature

        Most of the time I’m able to remain apart from the unsavory elements in life, as you call them, and go about my business without any repercussions. Being forced to acknowledge their presence is uncomfortable and depressing (at least to me), especially when they show up in my own backyard.

  6. A

    Funny, I found this article because someone came and stole my cheap $30.00 grill out of my back yard and I feel exactly like you (should I get a camera, gun, etc). But I didn’t hear them and now all my windows are now shut down and locked in the basement and all of my chairs that were outside are inside. Also like you, I had a rose bush in a blue pot stolen in the Spring. What is wrong with people? I hope it’s just a teenager because it does worry me they will gain confidence and try to get in and I live alone. I have to admit that I did laugh a bit because that grill was getting rusty and old and full of charcoal ash so I hope they had a hell of a time with it and got ashes all over there car or however they took off with it :). I was thinking about getting rid of it anyway.

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      I’ve been told by several people that it sounds like drug addicts. Apparently they steal things from yards and sheds and pawn them for a few bucks for drug money. It took me a really long time to feel like I wasn’t being watched, and like you, I worried they might try to break into the house. Now I’m like Gladys Kravitz and watch the street and alley for anything suspicious. I would just love to catch those punks in action!

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