So last Wednesday I didn’t have to be on duty at the hospital till 3:30 in the p.m. and was a little later getting to Magic Johnson’s Fabulous 24 Hour Fitness Center for my self-torture on all those machines that prevent my expanding to the size of a whale.
And so at about 2:30 or so, I go get in my car and look over to discover shatterings of glass scattered about from where the passenger window used to be. I was so stunned that it took a minute for it to register with me that somebody had smashed it. It took even longer for me to snap to the fact that somebody had lifted my briefcase from the floorboard.
You know that sinking feeling you get when you suddenly realize you’re driving down the wrong way on a one-way street?
Then you know how I felt.
It would not have been so bad had I not stoopidly left my wallet in the briefcase. But one would think that not even the dumbest of dumb criminals would have the kahoontas to smash a car window in broad daylight in a very busy parking lot in a very busy strip center not 30 feet from the entrance to Magic’s Fitness Center, in upscale North Dallas, no less, where so many well-to-do North Dallasites (and then there’s me) are coming and going, in and around the parking lot, at all hours.
And yet if anybody witnessed it they didn’t bother to tell the kids at the front desk at Magic’s place, although someone did report that it appeared a window had been smashed out. The kids did page for the owner of a Mazda 3 with the license number as soon as my smashed window was reported. But of course, I didn’t hear the overhead page since Led Zepellin was blasting through my earphones on the treadmill at the approximate time of the report of the broken window.
I promptly called the police, of course, who promptly rolled up 90 minutes later.
Meanwhile, after calling my boos to say, “Dallas, we have a problem,” I immediately called my friendly, behemoth bank’s fraud department to report it, to discover that the no-count sumbitch who stole my wallet had already charged $90 on my debit card on gas and Lord knows what else at a Chevron station across the freeway.
Stoopid me, I used to have my birthdate for a pin number, which any dumb crook will attempt right off.
There was a time when I’d have been totally freaked out at the time this happened, and probably really angry and kicking and cussing to the high heavens while waiting for the cops to roll up. In this case, I merely cussed to the high heavens with numerous choice words unbecoming of a Methodist holy man. But there was a time I would have been trying much less gracefully to process my sense of frustration and agitation at being ripped off by one so incredibly brazen as whoever it was that lifted my wallet and briefcase. Among other things ripped off was a journal containing all my deepest, darkest and most private thoughts as well as all the joys and the poems and prayers and various and sundry jottings that one like me keeps in a spiritual journal that one expects no one will never ever see and read. And never ever is a really long time.
I like to think that it’s a measure of how much I’ve grown and matured spiritually that, for the most part, I’ve remained centered and calm and none too agitated throughout this unsettling ordeal. That’s not to say that I haven’t, at times, wondered if the death penalty would be too good for the dog who lifted my wallet and violated my privacy and my very personhood.
But, it’s also a measure of my spiritual growth that I’ve been able to imagine meeting the culprit and reaching out to him (or her or them) in forgiveness and grace and all that, even if they are unrepentant. That’s not to say that I don’t want justice rendered and the crooks punished, but it is to say that I’ve thought about how I could be a witness to God’s mercy and grace to someone so desperately lost in life that they take to crashing out windshields and ripping people off in broad daylight.
I led a Bible study on the Ten Commandments once, and pointed out to the class that if prostitution is the world’s oldest profession, stealing must come in second. Professional and semi-pro thieves have been doing their thing forever, which is why “thou shalt not steal” ranks pretty high on the “don’t do it” scale. Getting ripped off happens, and it always has and probably always will, and that’s that.
But it’s still aggravating even to one like me, who preaches forgiveness and mercy at this very blog routinely. I do think I’m practicing what I preach, mindful of the fact that in the larger view of being a victim of a crime, I can only wonder how I’d feel about the crooks had I been shot or assaulted, or if a loved one were victimized. I like to think that even then I could muster up the grace that Pope John Paul mustered to meet with the man who shot him to tell him he forgave him and to witness to the whole justice with love thing.
It’s also occurred to me that I’m at an age, 61, where I’ve lived enough life and had enough ups and downs along the way that I felt that this was just another bummer of a life event that I’d get through with thanks that the crime wasn’t a whole lot worse. Age really does mellow us, or most of us, to such an extent that we don’t even have the energy for our freakout buzzers to get stuck.
And for my final thought on this–I think I’ve kept my holy head in all this because I live so close to other people’s suffering and anguish and their life and death agonies that maybe I have more perspective than the average person. Maybe I didn’t get too overly worked up about being ripped off for all the aforementioned reasons–that I’ve grown spiritually (which I can only hope and it’s not for me to say), and that I’m of an age where I’ve seen it all and experienced a lot worse stuff than having to pop $200 for a new car window and having to deal with banks and creditors with some phone calls. And, because I live daily so close to people who have the worst of illness and injury and awful things disrupt their health and their very lives.
Which isn’t to say that I haven’t had that awful and god-awful feeling of violation that every crime victim of any kind suffers and speaks of.
But as the Grateful Deaders said in their song–or was it Paul the Apostle?–”sometimes the light’s all shining on me, other times I can barely see.”
I’ve chosen not to step out of the circle of light that radiates eternally from the divine lantern, here on this sometimes dark earth where we’re all broken people in need of God’s loving and healing grace and tender mercies.
And thank you God for the gift of choice you give us in the free will you give us to choose how we react to life’s disruptions.