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A lawnmower, an older woman, a Mexican immigrant and the police

It sounds like the title of a bad joke.  But it’s a real story.My husband and I were walking our dogs in our neighborhood the other day.  “Hey!” Jane* called.  “Do you live in this neighborhood?”  “Yes” my husband said.  Later, he told me that as he said this, he steeled himself for some complaint about our dogs.  My husband and I have 2 adopted shelter dogs, each has their own “special qualities”.  Veritable “bulls in a china shop”, and not welcome at the neighborhood dog party.

Anyway.  Jane approached.  “Ok.  Alejandro* has done jobs for you, right?”  Alejandro is a Mexican immigrant who does the occasional odd job for us and others in the neighborhood.  She continued,  “Alejandro has worked for me for years.  I trusted him.  But he took an old lawnmower from my garage!  Then, he took a vacuum cleaner from my daughter and got rid of it.  I called the police!”

My husband and I didn’t know what to say except that we trust Alejandro implicitly.  He is a wonderful man who has been alone in our house a number of times and has only shown us hard work and a kind disposition.  Jane appeared angry that we didn’t take her story more seriously.  “Don’t say I didn’t warn you!”.

As we walked away, my husband and I felt worried.  About Alejandro: with thoughts about how the police might handle a Mexican immigrant who speaks no English and is accused of “robbery” by an older white woman.  About Jane: Beyond that she speaks no Spanish, and so her communication with Alejandro is largely through hand motions and gestures with lots of room for error, what if this accusation was really a symptom of a failing memory?

But here’s the pleasant twist to the story.  I ran into Alejandro today and told him what Jane had said.  He got a wry smile on his face and said “Todo está bien” (all is fine).  He went on to explain that Jane DID call the police.  One of Jane’s adult children gave him a heads up and Alejandro went to Jane’s house with a friend who spoke English and explained his side of it to the officers (He had used the mower to mow a section of Jane’s lawn that his newer larger mower couldn’t reach. He had returned it.  He had thrown away the vacuum that wasn’t working at the request of one of Jane’s kids when he was cleaning out the garage).  Alejandro said the police were fair and listened to him.  He said that the police told him that Jane’s memory was faulty (in fact, one of her kids was living with her to help out) and that no charges would be filed.  The officers were also compassionate to Jane, treating her with respect despite the fact that they didn’t lend credence to her story.

And here’s the even more pleasant twist to the story.  After we got done talking, Alejandro told me he had just come from Jane’s house having done another odd job.  “Yo la perdono. No es su culpa. Ella está perdiendo su memoria.” (I forgive her. It’s not her fault.  She’s losing her memory).  I was caught off guard.  In these times of divisiveness, it is all too rare for people to forgive, to be tolerant and to love in spite of bad things that happen.

I am thankful for Alejandro and Jane’s story as it gives me hope.

*Name has been changed.


kales@umich.eduA lawnmower, an older woman, a Mexican immigrant and the police

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