I know I promised you a post on silence next in this series but things happen.
Like bicycles getting stolen.
If you’re following along, this would be incident #2 of a stolen bicycle. You can read all about the first one here.
This time around, it was our daughter’s bike that was taken, and while I’m less surprised that it happened, I’m still upset.
So angry, in fact, I wanted to give the world a big middle finger the day it happened. (I don’t mean to offend, but that was my honest feeling.)
A text from my husband alerted us to the missing bicycle, so our Friday morning, which had been going smoothly was thrown off-kilter. We searched the porch. I called in a police report. (“Yes, that was also us who reported a bicycle missing a month ago, thank you.) We dressed and took a walk up the road just to see if we could see any evidence of her bicycle in the general vicinity where my bike was found.
While waiting for my son to shower, I sat at the dining room table, choking down coffee, feeling like the world is a cruel place. Never mind that our president is threatening a nuclear war with North Korea. I was saddened by the feeling that we aren’t safe in our neighborhood, the one little corner of the world where we spend our daily life.
Our plan to ride the bus into the city and go to the library was delayed. When we finally headed out, it was an hour later than originally planned. And now we’d be eating lunch out.
At times like this, I want to curl up and hide out and cut off everyone and everything so there is no.more.hurt. My daughter, brave and strong thing that she is, has taken the news mostly with grace. She has not shed a tear, only asked if she has to use her birthday money to fix it when it comes back broken. Bless.
My anger does not surface often but when it does, look out. Just as quickly as my anger flares, though, tenderness invades. I want to be mad at the world and take my anger out on no one and everyone, but the only cure for my feelings is to stay open. To look for the good. To notice and see. To hold onto kindness when I’m on the receiving end of it.
The dispatcher groaned when I told her this was the second bike we had stolen in a month. The police officer said he was sorry this had happened again to us. They don’t have to show us kindness in the midst of their jobs but they did.
A bike was stolen. It is important. But there are more important things to protect.
The world tried to break me as we traveled into the city.
We sat on the bus listening to a mom in the back row tell her young child over and over again to “Stop!” He had already pulled the cord to signal the bus to stop even though they weren’t stopping, and she was irritated. My mind was still full of the black thoughts from our morning discovery, but I tried to get to a happier place. I have been that mom. I am that mom.
“That’s a college, too,” she said to the boy as we passed the school of technology. We had already been through the community college. “That’s the college Mommy was going to go to.” Just a hint of sadness in her voice.
My thoughts turned immediately to my own mother, who gave up college when she learned she was pregnant with me. I have no evidence that this mom abandoned college for the same reasons, but I wondered.
A few blocks later, we passed the county prison which is unimpressive on the back side but looks like a castle from the front.
“Your uncle is in there,” the woman said. I can only assume the boy waved because he said he could see his uncle. His mom explained that his uncle can’t see him, and the weight of these circumstances is heavy in my heart.
Sadness settles in and it’s all I can feel and see. As we drive through the city, I think of my uncle, a bus driver, who died too soon. I notice all the people sitting on their porches smoking in the middle of the day. What are they feeling? Have they lost hope?
The world is broken. And it is breaking me.
This is one thing a bike thief can’t take from me. Stealing from us only increases my awareness of the hurt of others. When I feel pain, I feel others’ pain, too. Suffering of any kind, as much as I don’t want it to happen, helps me see more clearly.
Later, we go to Target and are maybe the only family who is not shopping for school supplies. I am speaking in unkind tones to my children who are bouncing through the aisles and sharing eleventy-billion thoughts, including “Whoa. That guy’s beard is cool.”
I don’t even look because we live in a town with a lot of beards. Also, I have a husband with a beard, and I’m not in the mood to be impressed. But they keep.bringing.it.up. I’m just trying to get through Target without spending all our money or losing my s*** so we can pick up my husband from work and go home to eat BLTs for dinner. (Bacon, apparently, is a comfort food.)
We stand in line at the checkout and then I see it. The beard. It’s striped. Orange and black. And it’s on a Target employee. He leans toward our aisle to restock some snacks and I see the full picture: orange and black beard, significant nose ring.
“My kids like your beard,” I say because I feel like I have to say something if I’m staring.
“Thanks,” he says. “I’m rather fond of it, too.”
It feels small, this acknowledgement of another’s humanity, especially when it looks different than my own, but it was big enough to crack the darkness a little more.
I’m not always good at this getting outside of my head thing, so I felt good that this was another thing the bike incident didn’t take from me. I can still offer kind words and a smile to someone else.
On our way back into the city, while stopped in traffic, there was a woman sitting in the median with a sign I could not read. My first thought was “Crap, I don’t have any cash or extra food.” We had just been to Target, of course, but what we had were groceries, not food we could easily give away. She was feet from a grocery store but we were running behind. My intentions are almost always better than my actions in these situations, and as we passed, I read that she was asking for shoes. The only shoes I had were the ones on my feet and they aren’t in that great of condition.
I glanced in the mirror as we drove away and saw another car pull up next to her and hand her something of significant size out the window. I want to believe it was shoes. Or a hot meal. It definitely wasn’t cash.
Witnessing the act softened my heart even more because sometimes I wonder if I’m the only one feeling anything at all for people on the street. I watch more people walk by than stop, and I myself walk by more often than I stop. So, to see someone else do something good encourages me that making a difference, changing the world, showing kindness, is not all on just one of us. It’s on all of us.
This thievery makes me suspicious of the people I see in my neighborhood but seeing strangers do nice things, talking to new people at Target, this reminds me that the human connection is strong and it takes work to keep it that way.
It is much harder to take a step toward knowing someone than it is to judge them from afar. It is harder to show kindness, to want to understand the motives behind an action, than to decide a person’s guilt on the spot.
I want to do the hard things. (Okay, I mostly want to do hard things. I also want to watch Netflix and forget about life for a while.) I even have this wild idea to invite the thieves over for dinner so we can know them better. They have not stolen my hope for a better way to life.
A final few words.
“Stolen” doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. We talk about our hearts being stolen by a lover or a child. We say things like “let’s steal away to the beach for a day” and it’s a glorious feeling of freedom. Or if we find a good deal on something, it’s a “steal” and we pat ourselves on the back.
Things, people–they might be taken from us by some person or circumstance, but only we can decide what will ultimately be stolen in the process.
Will a bicycle theft also steal my joy for life? Will it steal my hope that we might move to the city and live in closer proximity to people who might take things from us? Will it steal my compassion?
Or will my heart be stolen by a better, harder way of life?