Our home was burglarized last week. Twice. The first time, I felt all the feelings and then promptly moved on. But then just two days later it happened again, and those feelings stuck around.
I remembered writing about our first break-in not long after we moved to Clarkston five years ago, so I looked that up for some perspective. Back then, by God’s grace, my feelings eventually landed on compassion. I wrote about what it means to feel with people when they suffer. To be clear, this experience does not adequately define suffering, not by a long shot. (Read the whole post here to see what I mean.)
But this time I was mainly just mad. Irritated, of course, about the hassle and expense associated with a break in. But mostly furious that someone in this community we love so much didn’t act right, didn’t fit the picture we paint to the world about Clarkston. I really hate bad feelings, especially angry ones. I don’t know what to do with them, how to express them in healthy ways, and I often have no idea when it is appropriate to let them go. (Hint: I typically think it is always immediately. Our poor kids!)
But I am learning to let the full spectrum of emotion do its work. And this time, my anger led me to some conclusions I’d like to share here.
Balled up in my anger was the feeling of injustice. Why did two random groups of people (at least one of the break ins was most likely gang related) target us, our house, our stuff? It wasn’t fair. After telling the story to the police and our neighborhood and the alarm company and the glass repair people, I realized something: Telling the story of what makes you personally, righteously angry without fear of repercussion is a privilege.
Our friend and Refuge Coffee Shop manager, Leon Shombana, didn’t have that privilege when he was forced from his home during civil war in The Democratic Republic of Congo. He had no one to safely vent to when his own father was killed.
Our friend Amina did not have the privilege to tell her story after her husband and ten children were murdered. Our friend Ibsa had no one to listen to him as he grew up, hungry and frightened, in a refugee camp in Kenya. Ibsa’s father could not speak of the loss of his land and freedom from jail in Ethiopia.
Our American friends of color could not tell of injustices without further injustices inflicted upon them until the generation before paved the way for the story. And, still, there is less freedom to shout “This isn’t fair!” for them without being censured for being too harsh or too political or too focused on the negative.
My anger quickly turned into storytelling that quickly turned into action. I – and the people I told – fixed our stuff and battened down our defenses. We added new lights and considered getting a dog or a louder alarm.
And we are free, completely free, to do all of that.
So, what has being robbed in the middle of the little city we love so much done to me? Hell yes, it’s made me angry. But that anger has shifted today. I am angry that there are those who have absolutely nothing they can do when their dignity, their safety, their livelihood, their very lives are robbed. There are those who cannot speak up without fear. There are those who can now speak, but who have been so traumatized by the years of oppression, they are still afraid. I am thoroughly angry for them.
And I’m angry when those of us who can speak, who have resources and recourses, only choose to speak for ourselves to one another. When we speak of protecting our stuff and our safety and our “way of life.” When Christians, those who Jesus called to lose our lives in order to find them, when we—of all people—spend our voices and our energy and our wealth doing the exact opposite.