Last year, on the 4th of July, my family was on our way to the beach when we got a call that someone had broken into our house (something that I talk about in this post). We returned to see our back door smashed in, and our TV and other valuables stolen, including all my wife’s jewelry and her engagement ring. While not quite traumatic, it was a bad enough experience that when I woke up this morning, one year later, the memory did come to mind. I idly wondered if something would happen this year too, hahaha.
And lo and behold, it did.
Today, a little past midnight, a motion detector outside my house went off. I stumbled to my back window and looked down, and saw two black men huddled next to my scooter, trying to cut the lock off its wheel. Shock coursed through me as I fumbled in the dark for my phone, and dialed 911. While on the phone with the cops, the guys apparently realized the futility of trying to cut a hardened steel lock that was buried in one foot of solid concrete, and so jumped over my chain link fence and ran away, in different directions. I was tempted to run after them, but thought to myself, “That is how really, really bad things happen,”, and so instead decided to go outside and wait in my car for the cops to show up.
And wait I did. For over one hour.
At the 30 minute mark, I called 911 again to ask if any officers were on route to my house, and the operator couldn’t confirm anything because it was a really busy night. I continued to wait in my car, absolutely fuming. I was angry at those punks, and at the many times we had been victimized in the few years we have lived here. I was also frustrated with the cops for taking so damn long to respond to a burglary. The two men had long since gone, having had half an hour in which they could walk home, and even take a leisurely shower. There was no way the police were going to catch them now. I sat in my car, arms aching with nervous tension and anger.
But as I sat there, a thought came to me – according to the operator, the reason the cops hadn’t shown up is because they were responding to calls elsewhere, all across the city. My call was one of probably hundreds, and so relatively low in priority that they couldn’t even spare the resources to respond. In other words, no one was at my house because worse things were going on in DC that night, a thought that provided some perspective and blunted my frustration. Of course, it still would have been nice if DC had more police officers so even calls like mine could get addressed, but that was nothing that could be addressed then and there. And as fireworks exploded in various parts of the city, I couldn’t help but be reminded of places in this world where things were even worse still, and give thanks.
I also felt a strange sense of camaraderie with those hundreds of people, those hundreds of callers. I have to admit that up to this point, I was feeling more than a little victimized, especially given that only one year ago our house was broken into. I wondered why I and my family had been singled out for crime so many times. But the wait reminded me that I wasn’t alone in this, the only person in the city having a crappy night. No, I was one of the many, many people who were having a crappy night. Crime was not just my reality, but one shared by many in DC, and a reality that existed far before me and my family had ever moved into this wonderful and craptastic city.
One hour rolled by, and I called the police for an update. They still were unable to provide any estimate as to when officers would arrive. So I told them to cancel the call, and that I would report it in the morning at the station, which the operator seemed relieved to hear. After all, nothing was stolen, and everyone and everything was safe and secure. It could wait until morning.
But I can’t end this post here, because it would not be true to the full extent of my emotions. It’s true that everyone and everything is safe, and I’m no longer trembling with rage, and that’s good. But to be honest, I’m not sure I can stay here in DC much longer. I’ve tried to to maintain a good and fair perspective, even after repeated instances of burglary and vandalism. And I think I have done a good job at this, for the most part.
But as regular as crime is to living in the city, I’m frankly sick of it. I don’t want to get used to all the stupid things that happen here. For instance, last month, someone was shot in a drive-by shooting, half a block away from my house. As I peered nervously through the blinds, I was amazed to see people walking around like nothing had happened, like someone hadn’t just been gunned down in cold blood in broad daylight. I don’t ever want THAT to become my version of “normal”. Honestly, that should not be ANYONE’S version of “normal”. And I don’t ever want that to happen to me, or to the ones I love.
I know that God called me to this city, and I have done some good work here over the years, but I’m beginning to wonder if it’s not time for me to move on. After my wife’s cancer, the closing of our church plant, and numerous instances of crime, I find myself yearning for calmer waters. So if you’re the praying sort, I would really covet your prayers for discernment and clarity right about now…