Saturday, February 24, 2024

Gifting, cars and family bonds

by CAROL SHIRK KNAPP / Contributing Writer
| February 7, 2024 1:00 AM

In Fort Collins, Colo., “puffing” is against the law. And they're not talking cigarettes. Stealing cars is on the rise — and one way it's done in cold weather is when you are doing something else while warming up your car. Thieves see the exhaust vapors coming out the tailpipe — and no one around the car — and that vehicle is gone.

Six people were recently arrested in Galveston County, Texas, for participating in an auto theft ring. At least 100 cars were stolen over a period of months, with a value of $4.6 million. They used a computer to access the OBD reader — the diagnostics port on the car — and start them.

It is believed a cartel trains the thieves. Some of the cars cross the border, used in human trafficking — the others are sold to increase cartel coffers. They're advertised online — where “everybody's looking for a deal.” The “deal” then turns out to be a stolen car.

It's plain depressing to know there are those who think this is okay. Or even if they know it isn't, they do it anyway. I've been there in other ways than car theft. Probably most people have.

Our family has come up — quite unplanned — with a better story. I'm calling it a car “gifting” ring. It began when I got a text the day after Christmas from my niece in Washington, D.C., saying since I was “down” a car and she was soon to be “up” a car, that math needed equaling. She was gifting me her car.

I had to read the text three times to believe it wasn't some scam. As it turns out, another family member recently purchased a new vehicle. They gifted the car it was replacing to my niece — who, being tall, needed extra leg room — and more space for delivering her larger art canvases. 

My niece knew that my older model sedan, inherited from my mother's simple estate, had been loaned to my grandson — who needed work transportation. I immediately decided if I was being gifted a vehicle, then I would pass mine on to the grand. He was about to have his 20th birthday — and was he ever dazed to find a set of car keys in his birthday card.

An added bonus was that the new-car family member gifted cross-country transport — and new tires — for the car I am about to acquire. I think I am still in a daze, too. With so much focus on the hike in auto thieving, who thinks of auto gifting — a family “ring” I'd never imagined.

This will probably not happen again. Or maybe it will happen in other forms. Giving is contagious. It's one of those things you want to catch — to be part of the joy of carrying joy to others. “Pay it forward” has been a popular catchphrase for passing on a kindness. 

I'll never forget a junior high boy — when Terry and I took our church class shopping for Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes — gifted to kids around the world — saying, “If they knew how good it feels, I bet more people would do this.” 

The auto theft rings might be heaping up carloads of cash — but that'll never buy the joy that giving puts in a person's heart. If they only knew they are stealing from themselves.

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