Showing up with a different stolen bike once a week, I remember one of my former students fondly. After stealing the bikes, I’d catch him and provide a required lecture. Following my half ass lecture, he always promised to return the bike to his or her proper owner, only to leave with a different bike. For some odd reason, I couldn’t help but laugh and love this poor soul. He would actually return the wrong bicycle to someone he had formerly stolen it from the day before. And, the returned bicycle was usually more expensive than the one he had stolen.
Rarely turning in any assignments, Joe did show up every day on time. He was also kind and respectful to all the other students in our class. Giving him credit for that, I was just glad he didn’t know how to hot wire a Harley.
When Joe graduated from middle school, he would commonly stop by my classroom which had a glass window separating the school from the playground. Joe was never allowed to enter the school. He wasn’t dangerous. Joe was just an affable thief. I actually trusted him, and he trusted me. If I left my wallet on the desk filled with a few hundred dollar bills in it, he would leave it alone. If I were to ride my bike to school, he would have taken it to a gas station, filled up the tires and returned it peacefully. That’s just the way he traveled, or pedaled.
As a kind and unusual gesture, Joe once tried to convince me that he and his mother baked me cookies. They were Oreos. I accepted them with grace, and made certain my other students wouldn’t say a word about his thoughtful offering.
Annually, when Joe was still trying to pass the seventh grade, our school would try to generate food for those in need. Nobody in my class needed food more than Joe. His stolen bikes weighed more than him. Our canned food drive became a competition amongst the teachers, and Joe made certain we were going to win. All of the canned food he received the year before our can drive, he delivered to our class in a wheel barrel, probably stolen. He became the charitable rock star of our class, and we couldn’t help but love him. We won because of Joe and his sincere generosity. Pizza was on me that afternoon, but the class all knew who actually provided it.