Opinion

A letter to a thief: A message about redemption

Pam Slick ...  a tribute to her is stolen from her sister
Pam Slick ... a tribute to her is stolen from her sister's garden.
— image credit: Courtesy Nancy Slick

To the person who stole the butterfly ornament from my potted plant: Let me tell you a little about my sister, Pam Slick.

Pam, born on Christmas day, was our anchor. She was kind and compassionate and nurtured everywhere she went. She was a beacon of light who led her life with selfless generosity, teaching, guiding and forging the way to wisdom.

Pam dedicated decades of service to those most vulnerable and those most in need. She received multiple accolades for outstanding service on behalf of children and youth. She contributed years of volunteer service to the elderly, to the poor in need of legal aid, and to homeless youth. She served the League of Women Voters, the Girls' Alliance, the Family Law Access Project, the Juvenile Justice Commission and the Commission on Children and Youth.

And you? What have you done lately?

Pam served with Volunteer Lawyers and Domestic Violence Clinics. She was passionately dedicated to helping young mothers. She was a founding member of the Mediation and Restitution Service and developed and administered the Civil Service exam and interviews for the Public Defender Child Advocacy Division. She was a member of the School Attendance Review Board and held a chair position for the Commission on Children and Youth.

Stop me if I’m boring you.

Pam served as a lecturer, presenter, co-planner and moderator at USD School of Law, community colleges, Juvenile Court, Project Home Start, Consortium of Child Abuse Councils and the Court Interpreters training program.

And then she passed away.

Pam passed from illness in June, a deep devastation to all who loved and admired her. My dear, loving friends, teary eyed, gifted me with a beautiful pot of orange, yellow and pink flowers in Pam’s memory as I stood there melted by the deep pain of loss. In this little garden spilling over with love and bloom, they added a blue butterfly ornament, raised up on a metal stalk, which they planted among the petunias and dahlias.

I placed this beautiful gift of love, support and remembrance out for the world to see and enjoy. Out in nature that Pam loved and touched. Out under the stars that twinkled in her laughing eyes. Out where birdsong and spring breeze could drift through its fragrances to carry joy to others. And there the cheery butterfly stood, through bright summer mornings touched with early dew. Through the warming heat of August, alive with buzz and bloom. Through the cooling eves of autumn, where Nature’s cleansing winds swept leaves from her waving trees and nestled them in the rangy grasses below. There it stood for Pam. Until a few days before Thanksgiving. When you took it.

Did you think to wrap it in finery of holiday paper and offer it, giddily, as a testament of your generous, thoughtful nature? Did you give it to your mom, telling her how its joyous beauty made you think of her? Did you tell her where you got it? Or did you just poke it into that old pot on your porch, the one with the rotted chrysanthemums, and with dirty hands on your hips nod, satisfied, at what a good job you’ve done?

I thought to track you down somehow and give you a good talking to. Point out to you that this is exactly what is wrong with the world right now — that so many take without asking, without apology, without saying, “Thank you,” and without giving anything back. To remind you that so many will never have enough to fill the bleak pit of emptiness that haunts their deepest, crippled realms, and, blinded with a sickening madness, gleefully take from others for personal gain, causing pain and suffering. And reveal to you that if you do the same, you don’t get to complain about the state of the world because you are part of the wretched sickness that impales the most twisted, infected shards of putrid vileness into that which is good. And that you should be ashamed of doing such a thing, whether you knew the story behind the matter or not. And make you give it back.

Here is what is going to happen instead. You will read this and recognize yourself. And you will lie in your bed at night and think of all the pain and loss you have caused others and that others have caused you. You will acknowledge that everyone makes mistakes. It happens. You will know that for the world to change, it must begin firmly with each one of us. We must each tend our own garden, making it a place of fullness and thriving, a source of generosity and abundance, because those who take have not yet realized that the path to healing their deep emptiness is to give. But you will realize it. And you will be sorry.

In the morning, you will wake and you will retrieve the butterfly from where you have planted it and you will take it to the home of someone in need. And you will give it away, silently and anonymously. And there, among the dandelions and clover, the butterfly will stand atop its iron spire. And it will awaken and bloom and grow. And gathering up with it the wrongs and sorrows that have gone before, it will lift up from its tower and it will fly far, far away.

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