Rebirth of Reason

Sense of Life

Theft? You be the Judge.
by Malcolm MacKenzie

In 1966 I was posted to Sharjah in the Trucial States of Oman. I was in the Royal Air Force at the time and this was where 'someone in authority' had decided to send me. I was posted to a vast expanse of sand in the middle of nowhere. I didn't deserve it! All the houses in Sharjah village were made of mud bricks or cardboard that had been purloined from the many packages in which aircraft spares and the like had been received. I made friends with a local; he was our cleaner down on the 'flight-line'; his name was Absolem. Absolem had a wife and five children, and they lived in a cardboard box -- or two -- maybe three. As Air Force personnel we were fairly well looked after and one of our perks was free orange cordial that we could water down to make refreshments for ourselves. I used to give Absolem my full ration of cordial for his kids -- it had all sorts of goodness in it -- and vitamins too. Although Absolem always thanked me for my generosity I never really appreciated how much he appreciated the gift until one day he arrived with something for me. It was from his wife -- it was a few small meat pasties that she had baked. It was her way of saying thank-you. It also represented the cost of at least one day's pay for Absolem. It was too much reward -- nothing would have been more than sufficient.

We had a Canberra bomber limped into Sharjah a few weeks later; it had been diverted from its intended destination because of engine trouble. It was there a week or two before the new engine arrived -- in a huge wooden packing crate. We fixed up the Canberra, waved goodbye to the aircraft and the crew as it disappeared into the cloudless blue sky and thought no more.

A few weeks later there was a big inquiry on the base. Someone had nicked the wooden crate that the engine had arrived in. It seemed everyone and his camel was interviewed to see where the crate had gone (must have been made from some threatened species of tree -- and valuable). It was a wasted inquiry -- I was never going to own up. Absolem and his family had their new home -- his wife's pasties had been delicious, what more could I have done.

I recently returned to Sharjah. The house (wooden box) is still there but now is home to a few goats. Absolem died; his kids have grown; there is huge prosperity in the Middle East and his children managed a reasonable education and now have good jobs. They have built a house for their mother a beautiful home. All is well. Luckily I had taken with me a photo of Absolem that enabled me, after many days, to track down his family. My welcome was embarrassing -- after 34 years they remembered ME. They told me that the turning point in all of their lives was their new home, so many years ago.

I am not a thief. I have never stolen anything in my life, not even time from my employers. I "borrowed" the packing crate and one day I will return again, purchase it from its current "owners" and return it to the Royal Air Force. What more could an HONEST man do?

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