Mr. Joe Koblenzer, a 73-year-old Vietnam War veteran, rightfully lost his hosting job at Cracker Barrel in Venice, Florida (Sarasota County) after he stole a corn muffin from the restaurant and gave it to a possibly (but not verified) homeless man. I know the title of this piece and opening statement is not a popular one, but it's the truth. And if you truly care about people, you share the truth; hoping peace, love and reconciliation will be shared between all involved.
No rich person, no poor person, no child, no senior citizen, nor war veteran is above the law.
Wednesday, June 25, 2014 Cracker Barrel released this statement:
"Mr. Koblenzer has worked as a host at Cracker Barrel’s Sarasota store since April 2011. During the time he was employed, he violated the Company’s policies regarding consuming food without paying or giving away free food, on five separate occasions. Mr. Koblenzer received multiple counselings and written warnings reminding him about the company’s polices and the consequences associated with violating them. On the fifth occasion, again per Company policy, Mr. Koblenzer was terminated. Cracker Barrel is grateful for and honors Mr. Koblenzer’s service to our country as we honor all service men and women and their families."
I hadn't planned on writing about this, but after much prayer and a conversation with a misled Christian gal (that I don't know) on Twitter, I felt the truth needed to be shared. I prayed about this because I didn't want to add one more article to the same story that's been over-repeated from the same angle; Mr. Joe Koblenzer is good, Cracker Barrel is bad. But as I prayed, I realized I needed to write about it because this one-sided story is causing great injury to Cracker Barrel, the manager, the other employees, their families and the entire establishment (at least the one in Venice, Florida) because of this incident.
In order to honor God, bring peace to all (especially among my brothers and sisters in Christ), I share the facts below. Please consider them carefully.
FACT 1: Mr. Koblenzer took something that did not belong to him (regardless of monetary value or what he did with it) without the permission of the person who owned the item. That is called stealing...plain and simple (Mk 10:19).
FACT 2: This wasn't Mr. Koblenzer's first incident with stealing from his employers, it was his fifth (as far as his employers know). And his employers were kind and patient enough to verbally counsel him multiple times as well as give him written reminders not to steal in order to help Mr. Koblenzer overcome his illegal inclinations.
FACT 3: Cracker Barrel's policy for employee theft is not a weird, over-reaching rule about their merchandise...it's very ordinary and necessary. Every employer must terminate any employee who has the same presumptuous and entitled attitude that could affect and harm other employees who might be inclined to steal and justify it. Employee theft is not a harmless crime. It hurts many.
FACT 4: Though Mr. Koblenzer broke the law as well as company policy, his employers who did the right thing are being crucified by the public and media for upholding the the law and normal corporate, business policy.
FACT 5: While this entire incident is sad, just because Mr. Koblenzer is 73-years-old or is a war veteran should neither be the issue nor the reason for the media's and public's outrage. If any employee felt it was the "right thing to do" then they could and should pay for items they want to give to the needy.
Every since I was four years old, raised by poor immigrant parents, I gave to those I felt were in need. And not once did I steal property from others to do that. If I saw someone who needed food, I gave them mine. If I saw someone who needed a blanket, I gave them one, even if it just happened to be the only one I had. It's loving my neighbor. It's Christianity 101. Countless others I know have loved their neighbors the same way (and I'm sure you have too)...that is, pay for food and other merchandise and give it to someone who's in need. That's what truly kind, thoughtful and loving people do. They don't steal from one to give to another, they give from what they have.
"Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need."
~Ephesians 4:28 (ESV)
Please allow me a moment to digress. In response to the Christian gal on Twitter who told me that if I stole her purse and gave it to someone else, particularly "a starving man" that is, someone in a similar situation to the benefactor of the stolen corn muffin, then she would thank me. Let's more wisely and carefully consider your statement. If I stole your purse with all its contents (because why would anyone steal a content-less purse and give it to a starving man, how's he going to benefit from that?) and gave it to a "starving man", I'm pretty sure he'd either steal or sell your identity, then live like a king off of your credit cards and whatever else he could sell from the items in your purse. No, I don't think if I really did that (or if you really decided to give your purse away to a total stranger) you would be thankful...to anyone, except the person who helped you retrieve your stolen property.
CONCLUSION: This entire situation is sad and I wish the best for Mr. Koblenzer. I hope he finds another job and that he learned from this so he can be a more wise, thoughtful and trustworthy employee. But more than that, I pray for Mr. Koblenzer's soul; that he repents and trust Christ as His Savior. Then he will no longer have to steal or wonder where his next meal is coming from because the God of all creation will be his Provider for all things in this life and more importantly, in the life to come.
I also hope Cracker Barrel and all their employees won't be too damaged by this unfortunate incident. I for one will do what I can to help by dining at my local Cracker Barrel after church this Sunday. I hope you'll do the same.