This morning, I needed to move Grace's car seat from my truck to Colleen's car, but realized I didn't have Colleen's key only after I had the seat out of my truck. So, I sat the seat down on the driveway beside the car door and ran inside to get the key. On my way back out the door, the phone rang and I was detained about 5 minutes, which was plenty of time for someone to come by and take Grace's car seat. I was gone for only a moment and Grace's car seat is gone forever.
I've already had to wrestle with a lot of emotions. I felt violated on behalf of my daughter. I honestly think it would have been a softer blow had the thief taken something of mine and not Grace's. Particularly, a safety device like her car seat.
It's hard to estimate what a 3 year-old will perceive in situations like these. In this case, Grace thought she was somehow at fault and said, "Sorry, Papa, it's my fault he took my seat." I was really angry that he stole our stuff and forced us to change the plans of our day, but I was more angry that his actions gave Grace cause to feel guilty, in spite of the fact that she was the victim. I searched the neighborhood for a short while, but never saw any trace of the thief or the seat. In the big picture, it is probably better that I didn't find him. Replacing the car seat was not cheap, but I have no doubt it was much cheaper in every way than a physical altercation with the thief would have been.
The response that worries me the most is the result of my neighbor identifying the thief as an Arab: racism. I use that word cautiously and in a very nuanced way. After all, I have some very good friends who are Arabs whom I trust without reservation. I don't think all Arabs are thieves, but have struggled today, with thoughts of keeping an eye out for any Arabs in our neighborhood. Few areas in Jerusalem are integrated, and we live in a Jewish area. So, the default attitude in our neighborhood is that any Arabs in the area are suspect. Even though Arabs regularly work in the neighborhood, because they don't live here, they are suspect? They are assumed either to be stealing stuff themselves, or casing the area for the benefit of their friends. My experience today, encouraged me to embrace such assumptions wholesale. That bothers me.
I've struggled with thoughts about an elderly Arab man, a day laborer that comes by every few weeks asking to work in the garden. His "sales pitch" is the same every time: "I need some work. I have 10 kids and no food in the house." It's a compelling story, particularly to those who really want helping others to be one of their core values. However, the first time he came by, I didn't have any work for him, but I did give him some money for food. Enough money, in fact, to feed his family of "10 kids" for a couple of days. I explained to him that I was giving this to him because I love Jesus and I wanted to bless him. His response was stunning: He started cursing me, saying that what I gave him wasn't enough. And this, in spite of the fact that it was more than he could earn in a day AND he was getting it without lifting a finger.
He has come to mind many times today, and I've wondered if he really is in need of work, or that's just his "pass" to move through the neighborhood looking for things that can be lifted by his friends. There's no direct connection between this man and what happened today. At least, not that I'm aware of. It's not like I leave Grace's car seat on the driveway next to the car on a regular basis, so he couldn't report that to his friends. But still he has come to mind many times. That bothers me.
Finally, I've wrestled with the meaning of Jesus' words in Matthew 6:19-20: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (NKJV)." Do my reactions to this event indicate that Grace's car seat was a treasure laid up here on earth? Obviously, I want to say "no." But, I wonder. There seems to be a fine line between "laying up treasure here on earth" and being careful about the resources the Lord has given into our care. And I want to better understand the difference between the two.