Chicago Uncategorized

Of bad, bad robbers and good, good neighbors

The other day I woke up to a message request on Facebook. If you don’t know what a message request is, there is a little folder that gathers messages from people who are not your Facebook friends. It used to be pretty well hidden, but now it is fairly easy to find (feel free to contact me if you don’t know how to, I am no tech whiz, but I will be happy to help with this).

Going back to my story, I found a message from a stranger there, sent at around 10 pm the night before. This was lucky timing, because it can take me days or even weeks to look in it. At the beginning, it seemed strange, because the message only said that he thought that he had some bags that belonged to me. Hmmm. At first I thought that maybe he was referring to Amazon Fresh bags. I have ordered so many groceries lately that I could have easily misplaced milk, fruit or a whole cow without realizing. But it still sounded weird, and even a little fishy, so I went to the guy’s profile, and did some digging. He was not in the military, he wasn’t a widower, and he wasn’t coming from Russia (I bet most women know what I am talking about…). Indeed the profile looked legitimate, and belonged to a young man, not very different from my students. Let’s call him Alex.

He had plenty of photos, many in Chicago, friends, and family. He looked pretty real, and safe. So I responded asking for some more information. He got back to me quickly, telling me that he had found them in the sidewalk, and sent a photo of three bags. I had never seen two of them, but the third one was my baby’s unmistakeable diaper bag.

No way to mistake this bag that I love and my husband loathes.

But how could have I lost the bag if I had only taken it to the pediatrician’s office?


Fuck, fuck, fuck.

It took me a minute, but I realized that the diaper bag was in my car, but not anymore which meant…

I run to the window while I called my husband, since our car was parked right in front of our house. And, sure enough, someone had broken the passenger window. To steal a diaper bag, no less. At 9:30 pm in a theoretically safe neighborhood. In our face, as I had been working until 2 am the night before, and should at least have heard a window break, either ours or the ones of the other cars the robber had broken into. Had this stranger not contacted me on Facebook, we could have gone days without realizing, since we are taking the “shelter at home” order seriously, and we are only leaving the house to go shopping once a week and for medical appointments.

I was mad. As hell. Who goes stealing and breaking into cars in the middle of a global pandemic? Who breaks a car window throwing glass all over three car seats? Who robs a car in front of the very visible cameras of a public school? And then the practical part. Would we find someone to fix it while only essential businesses are open? While I called 911 to file a police report, my husband called the insurance company, and the practical part was organized within one hour. Our car window would be fixed the next morning.

We packed it and found a covered parking spot for the night. Other than how unsafe I suddenly felt in my own house (as if I hadn’t enough to worry about with the coronavirus ravaging my two countries), and how mad I was, since we only buy cars every thirteen years or so and we had happened to buy this one just four months ago, I though we were over it. My second robbery in six months, a negative experience, a bad day, after a 17 year safe run in the city. Collateral damage, and compared to all that was happening in the world, as we say in Spain, peccata minuta, not such a big deal.

Our beloved new car is not new anymore.

Actually, I could even rejoice a bit in the knowledge that the first thing that the robber must have touched was a dirty burping cloth, a little blue piece of karma.

And then I received another message from Alex.

He was offering to bring our diaper bag home. Social distancing and all. I was planning to go and pick it up, since it had some clothes and toys, the first footsie that we had bought for the baby when he still didn’t even have a name, a hat that my mom knit for his older brother, and Baby T’s NICU report, which I carried in the bag in case we needed to go to the doctor, and which had allowed Alex to track me down on the first place.

But he insisted on bringing it and dropping it off in front of our door. Not only did he do that, but he also left some sanitizing wipes in the front of the bag so I could wipe it off. And that is when I cried. Because, in coronatimes, you have to be a truly, really generous person to share your sanitizing wipes. And this young man, probably not much older than 20, has just not only turned a very bad experience into a good thing, but has also given me back hope. Because as much good as we are seeing these days, there is also a lot of greed, selfishness, and stubbornness that we can see around. For every health care worker risking their life there is some moron refusing to give up their tiny parcel of the world for a couple of weeks, the safety of their neighbors and their elders be damned. Thanks to this experience, I choose to see the good.

I tried to compensate Alex for his actions. He refused, telling me that knowing that he was able to help was more than enough.

“That’s what neighbors are for”.

With that simple sentence he reminded me of something that can be easily forgotten, especially in a big city, but that is so important. That we should be there for each other, that we need to have each other’s backs.

And that there are still good, very good people in the world.

I have known all along that, despite the bad rap they get, millennials are pretty great. After all, I work with them. But after this, if someone dares criticize them in front of me, I may not break their car window, but I could very well break their nose.

Alex, with all my heart, thank you. Not only for alerting us, for picking up my baby’s scattered  clothes from a sidewalk in times when even touching our own faces is scary, and for returning them to us. But also for returning something even more important: my faith in human nature, faith that the robber stole along with our receiving blankets, and that you gave back to me. I will make sure to pay it forward, and to add you to the growing list of role models that my sons will hear about for years to come.

*NOTE: If your car was broken into in the last week in Lincoln Park, contact me. I may be able to help you recover at least part of your things.

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