The homeless Kansas City mom who benefited from an act of kindness by a cop and an outpouring of generosity from her fellow citizens is in jail on a federal meth charge.
That would be Sarah Jane Robinson, the mother of six who was nabbed for shoplifting last month at the Roeland Park Wal-Mart.
Roeland Park Police Officer Mark Engravalle purchased the diapers and baby wipes she’s been trying to steal and bought the kids shoes for good measure. New of his good deed prompted citizens to contribute more than $6,000 in donations plus clothing and other essentials for Robinson and her children.
So are all of these people suckers, now that Robinson has been picked up on federal charges of knowingly and intentionally possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute it?
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Not at all.
People heard a story of a widowed mom who’d been living with her children in a car. That’s not an unusual story, unfortunately, but it’s always a shocking one. People want to help, especially when children are involved. They saw a chance to help stabilize a family, and Robinson talked optimistically about being able to look for place to live.
Robinson’s criminal justice troubles don’t make her and her children’s plight any less acute. And there are no purely sympathetic victims, much as we would like to find them. People fall into desperate situations through a combination of mistakes, hard luck and a lot of other factors. Acts of kindness don’t erase a troubled past or automatically set a person on the straight and narrow.
Charity is almost always a roll of the dice, and giving directly to an individual you don’t know is the equivalent of day trading. People who work in shelters and substance abuse programs know very well that the dramatic turnaround stories we love to hear about are few and far between. More often it’s a case of clients taking a few steps forward and then a few steps back and you hope that over time the forward motion exceeds the backward drag.
It’s unclear at this point exactly what Robinson is accused of or how deeply she was involved. It’s also unclear where her children are at this time. But in an unforgiving world, the kids have experienced acts of kindness from strangers. We can only help that will provide some comfort in what surely will be a hard road ahead.
To reach Barbara Shelly, call 816-234-4594 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @bshelly