Gratitude, Act I
Three hundred and sixty three days ago, my husband came home to find our home ransacked, the television (and sundry other items that would take a day to catalog) gone, and my car stolen. The thieves also took the garage door opener and every key from the rack by the door, which left me with the hollow, unsettled certainty that they would return.
They didn’t, but I wouldn’t know that until the next day’s events unfolded.
Yet even in the chaos of a home with every drawer yanked out and dumped, their contents an ankle-deep morass, gratitude began peeking through the shards and trauma almost immediately.
That morning, I left an hour later than usual in our daughter’s car, which we were watching during her deployment; my husband came home an hour—or more—earlier than usual. What if he had happened upon them? I shudder to think of the confrontation, and am doubly grateful it did not occur. Likewise, I could have been home, downstairs or in the shower, and not heard a knock at either door. I may not have heard the window break, either. Triply grateful.
I relate these events not out of a sense of uniqueness or self-pity. Others have experienced much worse, and for us, it was an annoyance rather than a catastrophe.
But I relate the story because of the response that arose within me, the response I didn’t expect, the response for which I am grateful on its own merits—not mine.
By that night, I had resigned myself to praying for the perpetrators, faceless and unknown. As a Christian, I am called to pray for my enemies and for those who persecute me. If I couldn’t apply that precept in this relatively benign circumstance, I knew in my heart I’d have failed my vocation, and so I prayed.
I prayed in gratitude that we were safe, and in petition that the perpetrators would be caught and held accountable. And that they would experience whatever changes of heart they needed in order to leave addiction and theft in their past, like ashes from which they could rise, healed and whole.
Gratitude, Act II
They were apprehended the next day, fleeing in my car, a red PT Cruiser which they had filled with stolen goods, Bic lighters, and supersized colas from a convenience store. Unfortunately, they ran a red light and got t-boned, losing control of the car. Fortunately, the man who broadsided them was a millisecond slow getting through the intersection, which means he hit them instead of them hitting him. Both cars were totaled.
My car came to rest in the only area without people or cars at the busy intersection. In a stunning lack of consideration for risk/benefit ratios, my car’s driver pulled his Smith & Wesson .38 revolver on the cops. (Note: cops—plural, not singular.) Rather than shoot him outright, they swarmed and restrained him, and arrested him and his passenger.
My gratitude grew as, again, no one was badly hurt or killed, that all the stuff that remained missing was just stuff, and that the loss of my car did not translate to severe hardship, as it could well have, had our circumstances been different.
Gratitude, Act III
Over time, we’ve replaced the few items that needed replacing, and, oddly, purged much more. When you fold or sort or otherwise evaluate the contents of drawers, dressers, and closets, you discover how much junk you’re hanging on to without even knowing it.
One of the offenders has been released on probation with a two year suspended sentence. I looked him up on Facebook, and he looks healthy now, not gaunt and desperate like he did in his mug shot. The second is being sentenced today. He’s the one who pulled the gun, and he’s going to prison for a while—but he’s been recommended for a program called Purposeful Incarceration, specifically created for persons whose crime is related to addiction issues. His family will be eligible for help, too.
The event provided fodder for creative nonfiction essays, one of which found its way into my Creative Thesis for Spalding University’s Master of Fine Arts in Writing. More importantly, it provided a gentle stimulus for my spiritual growth.
I am grateful that two men have the opportunity to heal and break the chains of their addictions; that their families have the chance to get services they need to improve their lot; and that a difficult lesson—pray for those who persecute you—has borne rich fruit.
In the end, I guess my PT Cruiser was martyred for a good cause.
And for that, I’m grateful. ♥