On my way out of the post office today I heard a woman shout “Stop him!” and as I ran to exit saw a man with a lavender handbag, which didn’t suit him, running past.
Turning out I saw a man grab him and pin him to a shop window. When I arrived the thief stopped squirming. We were soon joined by the cafe owner where the theft took place.
The bag’s owner that I met was clearly shaken and in her 70s. The thief claimed that begging had not got him any money to get a fare to Plymouth 25 miles away. The thought of walking/hitchhiking had not occurred to him let alone what the stress could do to an elderly person.
Oscar Wilde once said that the man that robes from a rich man’s property was less contemptible than one who begged to survive. Even if we take the thief’s story at face value his life did not depend on travelling 25 miles and there was a distraught visibly shaken victim.
Times are hard and I cannot imagine what living on the streets is like. But I saw the panic in two pairs of eyes and know where my sympathy is. Had it not occurred to him that the old lady might take a turn for the worse or did his needs avoid any consideration but his own?
Social ills need social solutions. But our sympathy always needs to be with the ones who cry for help.