Take my word for it: The benefit of the doubt

By From page A4 | August 28, 2013

“Men are wonderful. I adore them. They always give you the benefit of the doubt.” — Gene Tierney

We must be suckers, because I try to always give people the benefit of the doubt. I find it’s a much better way to build relationships than assuming everyone is out to get me.

Sadly, though, I’m constantly reminded that there really are a lot of bad people out there trying to get me, or those I love. Some are obvious; they’re helbent on destruction and it’s clear to see — our prisons are full of these folks. But others aren’t; they’re sneaky, pretending to be generous and kind while selfishly pursuing their own benefits and gain. Both make it hard to think optimistically about people as a whole.

My brother and his wife, the latter six-months pregnant with their first child, flew down from Washington state to visit us last week. They did so with the motivation of spending time with my kids, and sharing a little adult conversation with my wife and I. They truly love my daughters, and want to be the best uncle and aunt they can be. So they work for it, and their gesture did not go unnoticed.

However, they returned home just before midnight on Saturday night after a long flight and drive back from the airport to find the front door of their home kicked in. Upon entering their house, they found thieves had stolen two laptops, their fairly large flat-screen television, and the kicker, the diamond jewelry she wore at their wedding.

Their noble efforts to be good people for us was rewarded with the absolutely appalling behavior of others. Still young in life, they didn’t possess renters insurance either, and are understandably upset with the world right now.

My sister in law put it simply, “What a crappy way to end our nice vacation. Feeling very blue. Things we work hard for, we no longer have.”

This hurts my heart. Good people do not deserve to be treated this way.

The way the place was robbed left the impression that their home was “cased” and probably was burglarized by someone they knew. Someone they gave the benefit of the doubt to now possesses their valuables, and violated their trust and their sanctuary in the process. Safety is now a concern, and for a woman about to have a baby to be afraid to be in her home is just tragic.

I usually find comfort in the thought that people like these thieves will get theirs eventually in some form of deserved karma, not so much spiritually but in the downward spiral that comes from this type of lifestyle. Criminals get caught at some point, and they find a lot more misery than pleasure in life in the long run. Still, it’s probably not helping my brother right now, who is wondering who he can and can’t trust, and fearing ever leaving his home for any extended amount of time again.

“No good deed goes unpunished,” they say. It fits in the context of this situation, as they were seemingly punished while trying to do something nice for us. But it feels wrong to embrace that philosophy. There are a lot of good people out there doing amazing things mainly for the benefit of others. These people are hidden under the shadow cast by the selfish people without a moral compass. But I still want to believe we can find their ray of light through that, and that everyone deserves that chance to shine.

So I shake my head, and ultimately my fist, at these robbers. Their quick score will line their pockets for a month, and hurt members of my family for an even longer period of time. But soon, my brother and sister in law will be cradling a newborn baby, realizing life is beautiful and their lost possessions were just material things. They will be surrounded by good people who love them and will be there for them, hopefully reminding them that most people still deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Because even though there’s a risk that some will take advantage of that benefit, the ones who don’t will ultimately travel two states away to visit you and your kids just to show you they care. And those people make the risk completely worth it.

Patrick Ibarra is the managing editor of the Mountain Democrat. His column appears bi-weekly.

Patrick Ibarra

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