Who Knew Making Amends Could Make the News?

Who Knew Making Amends Could Make the News?

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This post was originally published on July 22, 2016.

We all do stupid things in our addiction—we might mouth off to our loved ones, get in bar brawls or steal shit. Once we get sober, we are likely to feel ashamed of our past behavior and try to set things right. Usually you don’t get press when making amends, but recently a recovering addict who returned a piece of valuable art he heisted while high made the local news.

The Holiest of Heists

This male addict, whose name has not been identified in the press, ripped off a bronze statue of none other than Jesus Christ in December of 2014. The statue was valued $7,500 when he swiped it from a gallery in Zionsville Indiana. It was sculpted by Thomas Kinkade, an artist who painted luminous pictures with stunning detail (and also ironically died of an overdose in 2012). Apparently, the thief didn’t need the statue for cash, or maybe he was too fucked up to sell it on the black market, because he still had that statue in his possession after getting clean. Instead of hanging onto it, he called up the gallery and apologized.

The gallery manager, Rhonda Crenshaw, got the call. “He proceeded to stammer and say that he was very remorseful, and he was the person that had stolen our sculpture of Christ, and he wanted to get it back to us,” she told Fox59. After confessing to Crenshaw, the man hopped on the phone with Barbara Jennings, the gallery owner.

“He sounded so genuine. You could hear the emotion in his voice. I felt like there was an earnestness about his voice in what he wanted to do,” Jennings said.

Making Amends Outside a Pizza King

The recovering addict met Jennings at a local pizza joint to return the statue. When Jennings arrived at Pizza King, she found the guy sitting outside of the restaurant with the statue. Now, it would be understandable for Jennings to experience some fear before a rendezvous with some random thief, but apparently the addict had greater apprehension.

“I wasn’t afraid per se, but I could tell he was,” Jennings said, “and I was a little bit nervous,” she said. After the addict apologized to Jennings and returned the statue, he told Fox59 that “The sculpture itself was 20 pounds, but it was a lot more pounds than that of resentment on my back. I just needed to get it off my back and it was time.” Obviously, the addict is in some form of 12-step program from the language he uses when explaining why he stole the statue to Jennings, and all signs indicate he was making amends.

“I was in full addiction, and I went into the gallery with bad intentions,” he said, “I just put it in God’s hands and a higher power… There is help. Just because people are on drugs doesn’t mean they aren’t good people. I’m just here to share my story.”

Luckily, Jennings does not want to press charges on the man, having accepted his apology. “No matter what you’ve done, there’s a way to right it,” said Jennings, “If he can be an example to one person to do the right thing, what a ripple effect that could be.”

Happy Endings Still Happen

I may not be in AA anymore, but I certainly believe in the importance of apologizing and making restitution when you’ve fucked someone over. Sometimes doing so can go well, and you’re met with magnanimity on behalf of whoever you stole from or cheated on or whatever shady shit you pulled while drunk or high. Other times, the recipient of the amends can still hold a grudge and be quite nasty.

It’s nice to know that after having a rare $7,500 Jesus statue ripped off, Jennings could forgive. Whether she’s a Christian or not, that bronze JC statue would definitely approve.

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About Author

Tracy Chabala is a freelance writer for many publications including the LA Times, LA Weekly, Smashd, VICE and Salon. She writes mostly about food, technology and culture, in addition to addiction and mental health. She holds a Master's in Professional Writing from USC and is finishing up her novel.