To the Thief on the Subway

To the person who stole my wallet yesterday while on the subway in Mexico City with my fiance, I’m sorry. I don’t know why you felt the need to reach into my pocket as the crowd shoved its way into the train car and take what was not yours, but I pray there was a good reason–perhaps your kids are starving and you can’t find a job, perhaps a loved one is sick, perhaps you never learned the difference between right and wrong.

For each of these things, you cannot be blamed, and I am sorry.

I am sorry that you have grown up in a broken system in which people must steal to survive. I am sorry that forces beyond your control took your hand and led it where your hand did not belong. And I am sorry that you are weak. I am sorry that you could not stand up to these forces, that you caved beneath their pressure, that you victimize others because you, too, have been victimized unjustly.

But I want you to know something, and I want you to remember it well: You did not merely steal my money yesterday, and you will not merely steal money tomorrow or the day after that from whoever you steal from next. Perhaps you do not understand this, so please for a moment allow me to explain.

Yesterday you stole my hardwork, my work ethic, my merit. The thousand-or-so pesos in my pocket were earned through painstakingly sacrificing my time–true, I work at a job I love, a job where I help people, a job that empowers me with personal growth and values its workers–but none of these things lessens the effort I put into it and the exhaustion I get out of it. You maybe have heard the saying that time is money, but this reasoning has it backwards: money is time. A few dollars and some coins do not exist in a vacuum: they are constructs that quantify the work and energy expended over a period of time. Money can be replaced, but time cannot be–and by stealing my money today, you have robbed me of time that I can never regain.

You stole my security and my trust. Until today, I felt entirely safe in Mexico City–this is my third time here, and I’ve come to love the place. The people are friendly, the crowds though daunting are polite, and I never once felt at risk. Today you have broken that bond I’ve forged with this city. Today you spat in my face with words that scream of my naivete, that remind me how cruel and unforgiving the world can be, how hopeless and heartless are its people. You may have once felt the breach of trust, and perhaps you know how hard, how deep it stings–and if you do not, I hope you never do. It will take time for this wound to heal; your swift fingers have carved a scar into my body that cannot easily be filled. And, yet, I know you are the voice of the few, for on my way home, forced again into the subway to return, a saw a young gentleman offer his seat to another person who was standing. There are still kind souls in the world. I am sorry you are not one of them.

You stole my memories. The wallet you slipped from my pocket was unique, custom-printed with a picture of the synagogue where my fiance and I were engaged. The money therein was meant to pay for us to visit a wax museum in the city and purchase food for the next few days–food that would have given us many good memories as we cooked together in this tiny kitchen. And my debit card was to pay for the bus tickets we’d need to visit my fiance’s family–I haven’t met them yet, and now because of you, I might not have the chance before I return home in barely a week. These moments that could have happened–and should have happened–you have stripped away from us, and this is a crime that cannot be forgiven.

I am sorry the world pushed you to pickpocket, and I’m sorry you were too small a person to resist it. And if my faith in you–that somewhere you are a good person at heart–is misplaced, then I pray justice will be served and God will strike you down to repay these things you have so mercilessly stolen from innocent people.

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