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Monday, December 18, 2006

When a cell phone is the barometer of society

Just a week ago my wife and I decided that it was now time to give my son his first cell phone. My daughter has had hers for two and a half years.

Well, got an upgrade to my phone, and so the pass downs began. I gave my, now, older phone to my wife, who gave her older phone to our daughter and our son received our daughter's older phone. Jason was soooo excited! He quickly SMSed the rest of the family to give them his number. The next thing he did was to play the games on it.

In all of this, I think I was just as excited about him getting a phone as he was. Since my daughter, Nicole, got her first phone (the one Jason just got from her), I had been sending her SMSs every now and again just to let her know that I was thinking of her and that I loved her. I do this for my wife on a regular basis.

So, I was excited about the fact that I would now be able to do that for my son too! I have been doing just that in the past week.

Well, yesterday (Sat, 16 Dec) we were at Menlyn Park Shopping Centre to do some of our Christmas shopping. We arrived there at about 13:00 and we did a little shopping until 14:00. Then the whole family, my wife's sisters and parents and nieces together with our family, came together to watch Open Season.

After the movie we all went our separate ways.

Some hours passed and we finally arrived at Game , an apartment store selling almost everything that a house could need or want.

Jason and I decided to sit outside and wait for my wife and daughter. I have a problem with my neck, and by this time my back had started killing me! So, there we were watching people walk by.

Jason had been complaining that the pockets in his shorts were too small for his cell phone, so while we were sitting there he took it out of his pocket and played some games on it.

While we were sitting there my son's cousin and her dad arrived there. My son's cousin had a balloon with her and the two of them started goofing around with the balloon. This continued for about 10-15 minutes. Finally, my wife and daughter came out and I told my son, "Come, let's go!"

When we were two levels up (Menlyn has six levels), and at the parking pay point my son suddenly said that he did not have his cell phone with him!

Well, that was it! I knew exactly where it was! In somebody else's hands who had no intent of handing it in somewhere, just in case the owner was looking for it.

Jason and I ran all the way back, and by the time we got back to where we were sitting, the phone was gone! There was a key-making vendor close by, so I asked him if a phone was handed in to him just in case someone was looking for it. I went in to Game and asked the security at the entrance the same question. I did the same at the cell phone department and the jewelry department, both of which are just into the entrance to Game. Nothing!

I did not expect any better! Why! Because that is exactly what we expect from the vast majority of South Africans to do. Pick up something that does not belong to them and then to keep it as their own!

When I was a kid, I was taught very clearly by my parents (and that was the expectation from society), that if I ever picked up something that did not belong to me, I should hand it in to the closest store or counter in case the owner came searching for it! Else, look for a name on the item and then try contacting the owner.

Unfortunately, the South Africa we live in today is not a country in which ownership, integrity, honesty and dignity are valued above criminal behaviour! I did in no way expect anybody to simply call one of the numbers in the phonebook of the phone to see if they could find the owner! In fact, when we reached the bench where we sat before and saw that the phone was gone, I immediately called Jason's number. Somebody answered the phone without saying a word. I could heard background noise. However, the thief on the other side ended the call and switched the phone off completely. I tried many times after that to call the number, but his service kept on saying, "The number you are trying to contact cannot be reached right now. Please try again later!"

You cannot imagine the disappointment I felt. The anger! Yes, even hatred! I was so angry, I even took it out on my family and especially my son! Driving home I was seething with anger! I was venting beyond anger! Just thinking that someone could be so dishonest, to take what does not belong to them, in the process breaking a little boy's heart. Several times my son was crying out of control! He was so excited about the phone, and now some lowly criminal stole his phone.

And, don't tell me that person is not a criminal. That person took what did not belong to him, and that makes him a thief, hence a criminal!

After we arrived home I sat in front of the TV feeling very sorry for myself! I behaved like a mad man because someone stole my son's phone!

Just there and then I got up and joined my wife and son in my daughter's room. He was still crying his little heart out. My heart was broken by now too! How could I have vented with such anger and hatred?! I sat there with them telling them that with my outbursts and my attitude I had sinned against God and against them. Much of my anger I levelled at them, and especially my son for losing his phone.

I sat there asking each one of them to forgive me for being angry at them, especially since we were being the victims of a crime. I also spoke my forgiveness toward the person that stole the phone. It is not my business hating anybody, even if they commit crimes against us. Jesus told us to love even our enemies. It is not always easy, but that is what He requires of us.

Next, I prayed, asking God for forgiveness, and for the healing of the hurt that I caused in my family through my outbursts.

Please don't think that the cell phone is a small thing and that I must just get over it. In my side of the family, I have had an uncle stabbed to death, a cousin shot to death, a niece raped and two other nieces had their cars hijacked at gunpoint. I had a car broken into, another car stolen and our home was broken into. That cell phone was no SMALL thing! It represents only the tip of the iceberg!

In South Africa, we have lost our moral barometer. When the government has no ability to be leaders in the country, especially in the field of morality, when they are the leaders in corruption, then the people will simply follow. Especially, when more than 67% voted for the current government.

When the government has proven through its own inaction that they do not care in the least about the crime in this country, what is to be expected? More crime!

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