Shaming a thief

Published 8:04 pm Saturday, April 23, 2016

There’s a pretty good chance that whoever stole a grill and propane tank from the grounds of Tidewater Motorcycles on Godwin Boulevard sometime last weekend has felt a pang of awkwardness this week.

Perhaps the awkwardness even transformed to shame and remorsefulness. If so, then the public shaming of that thief by the shop’s owners, Pam and Brian Mathis, worked as intended.

When they arrived at their store on Monday to find one of two grills and propane tanks gone, the Mathises decided to make use of the big sign they have near the road to make their feelings about the theft widely known. The message reads, “Dear thief. We used that grill to raise money for charities. Sleep well.”

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Tidewater Motorcycles holds Tuesday chili dog socials during the spring to give customers and friends a place to gather and have a bit of fun. The funds raised benefit various local charities — among them, the Graz’n Acres Therapeutic Riding Center, the Special Olympics, the Lady Freedom Riders and others.

The theft of this one grill will not deter the business from offering the events in the future, but it might make the Mathises consider locking up their outdoor equipment, a response that will be inconvenient, though surely not life-changing.

What could change a life, they hope, is the sign.

“Whoever took it must need it more than we do,” Pam Mathis said this week. “I hope he (or she) will read the sign, feel remorseful and think twice about stealing stuff the next time. I don’t understand why people think it’s OK to just take something; what an ugly, petty thing to do. It’s disheartening … when we are trying to do the right thing, to do something good for the community.”


Godwin Boulevard is a well-traveled road, and it’s entirely likely that the thief regularly drives past the motorcycle shop. If so, perhaps the sign will encourage a change of lifestyle. That, at least, would be a positive outcome from this sorry situation.