A Man Stole My Cellphone in Whole Foods, Then Returned It To Me

Have you seen War Room?

It’s a movie about the power of prayer, and honestly, I haven’t seen it since my husband and I saw it in theaters a few years ago. The most memorable scene in the film, one that I can’t seem to forget, occurs when the main character runs into a man who attempts to rob her. Upon being held at knife point, the main character, who is an elderly woman, stares at her perpetrator point blankly and states “Now you put that knife down right now, in the name of Jesus!”

And then he did. 

I can’t lie, sometimes I act this scenario out in my head. I imagine what I’d do if someone were to try to hijack me or my son and then I think back on this film. I envision myself saying “In the name of Jesus” and then the heavens part and a flame of fire descends on the hijacker, while I stand heroically saying, “No one messes with a child of God,” and then I walk away while others look on in amazement. 

Laugh at me all you want.

Well, something sort of like this actually happened in real life. Except, I didn’t have that big self-glory moment in the end. It was more like me awkwardly standing in awe confused, trying to process what God had just done. 

A couple months ago, Evan Sr. (husband) and I left church and headed to Whole Foods to pick up a few items. Evan Sr. dropped me and our 8-month old son off in front of the store, while he circled the block. I grabbed the 2-3 items that we needed, and then made my way quickly to the cashier.

 Reaching for my phone to call Evan to meet us out front, I discovered that my phone was missing. I had it moments earlier in a small opening in the grocery cart (I know, probably not the best place). And so a logical guess would be that it fell out as I was walking to the cash register. But the moment I realized my phone was missing, I had the unmistakable feeling that it was stolen. 

Making my way to Customer Service, I explained to the rep my situation: 

“Hi, this is an odd request but my phone was just stolen (I felt so sure).  Could I use your phone to call my husband?” 

Before I move forward, you have to understand Chicago. There are sides to Chicago that feel uppity, foreign, and cold and certain persons put off that vibe. Then there are sides to Chicago that can make you feel like you’re sitting on your grandmother's fluffy carpeted floor, watching reruns of Sanford and Son, and eating apple pie and homemade ice cream.  And certain persons can make you feel comfortable just like that.

The lady at customer service reflected the latter.

“What’s your number? What Ima do is call your phone and then you walk around the store and see if you hear it ringing.” 

I loved her already.

Before I knew it, Evan Jr. and I were walking the perimeter of the store inching our ears to hear a ring. Coming around the corner, I saw the lady at customer service headed in our direction, walking at a pace of purpose. 

“Okay I saw him! He’s in a black trench coat and walked out the door and headed towards Office Depot. You can catch him now if you leave! I called your number twice and heard it on him, but you gotta head out right now!” she said in one incredible breath. 

“Ohhh… I can't do that. Lemme call my husband first.” I said, amazed (and slightly concerned)  by her boldness. 

“Well okay, but you really could just catch up to him. You’ll be fine,” she said, while leading me back to her station

By this time she had a customer she needed to service. This meant that I had to wait until she was done servicing the customer before I could call Evan Sr.

  I knew that Evan Sr. had probably grown concerned by the amount of time I’d been in the store up until that point. There was absolutely no way for me to contact him and the customer in front of me was taking an unusually long time to be helped. Finally, I just turned around and asked a stranger for his cell phone.

I called Evan and he immediately answered.

“Hey Bae, someone stole my phone. The customer service lady called it and said she heard a guy walk out with it headed towards Office Depot. Could you track my location?” 

Evan had already interjected a few times in the middle of me explaining, but then he quickly got off the phone upon hearing two words: track location.

So there I stood in line. Evan and I got off the phone without any sort of plan for what I was to do or agreed upon meeting place for me to be picked up at. Either way, I still needed to purchase my food items and so when I was finally next in line to check out, I pulled out my items to be scanned. 

“Did you get your phone?” the customer service lady asked, while bagging my items. 


Pulling out my card to pay, I looked up for a second and made eye contact with a young man headed in my direction from across the store. His eyes were locked on me. 

Trench jacket. 

He came closer, and when he was a foot away from me, he pulled out my phone and politely asked, “Is this yours?” 

Without waiting for an answer (I must’ve nodded my head speechless), he dropped the phone in my hands and then turned around and headed towards the exit. 

Bagging the last few items, the customer service lady then filled me in on some context. 

“Yeah. See, some people can still make the right choice. I spoke to him on the phone and he told me that he was going to come back and give you the phone.”

“Wait. So you spoke to him on the phone when you called?”

“Yeah.” She, continued bagging while looking down. Then she continued. “He said that he’d passed Office Depot and figured that it was his lucky day, but then he started to feel really bad and said he was going to turn around. Alright, Here’s your receipt.” 

And just like that, I was on my way, phone in hand.

 I called Evan and made it to the car safely with our baby boy. 

Evan pulled up and I opened the door to the backseat. 

“How’d you get your phone?” Evan asked bewildered. 

 He kept talking while I strapped Evan jr into his car seat.  “I tracked your location and it was near Office Depot but then it started to head back towards Whole Foods.” He said, desiring an answer to his initial question. 

I climbed into the passenger's seat, buckled my seatbelt, and then stared out the windshield in pure awe. 

As we drove home that day, I gave Evan the complete rundown as to what happened.

Nothing made sense. A man stole my phone at Whole Foods, left the premises, and then voluntarily returned in person to give it back to me. No fear of consequences, no fear of my reaction, no fear of me potentially calling the police. He just walked up to me and gave me my phone as if nothing happened. 

Evan and I watched a movie that night, made sure no locators or bugs were placed on my phone, spoke about our day’s events some more, and then settled into bed. But before going to sleep, I continued to reflect while asking the same question, “Why?” Why would someone steal something...get away with it...and then turn around voluntarily and return it?  

And that's when I felt the sweet response. I received the answer in my heart.  

“No one messes with a child of God.”  

God was my defender. 

18 I will love You, O Lord, my strength.
2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
My God, my strength, in whom I will trust;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
3 I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised;
So shall I be saved from my enemies.
— Psalm 18:1-3