Friends, what is the proper response to having been robbed? This summer while I was away at FGC Gathering I was robbed twice in the same day, each incident completely independent of the other.
On Tuesday of FGC Gathering I was off campus with the entire high school program on our Out Trip at a nearby state park. While there, I got a text message from one of my roommates back in
Over the course of the evening after we’d returned from the Out Trip, some of the high school participants noticed that their ipod and/or cash was missing from their rooms. Our dorm and many of the rooms in it had been unlocked while we were gone that afternoon, and we eventually put two and two together: someone came and stole things while we were out. That night I returned to my room to discover my own ipod missing. Strike two.
If I could have chosen to be anywhere on a day like that, it would have been right where I was: part of one of the most loving and supportive communities I have ever been a part of. Also, the thefts at the Gathering prompted a lot of consideration about robbery and how to respond to it. At the HS Program’s Wednesday night Meeting for Business there was some space for participants to process what had happened.
Some declared that whoever took their stuff probably needed it more, and that they give it up gladly – material things aren’t really important anyway. Some said that if this person (or people) needed money, they would have gladly given some if they had just asked. Others expressed their decision to continue leaving their door unlocked as a sign of trust. All of these responses are valid and noble, and many of the messages were quite moving. However, the sense of violation was also acknowledged, and that the decision to lock the door was a valid response, too.
After awhile, during the meeting, the clerks called for the community to settle for a little bit, and to hold those who had lost stuff in the light, as well as the whole community. Someone quickly added that we should also hold whoever stole things in the light as well. Of course. I began to think about how I could connect this particular response with the robbery back in
One of the main themes of the week for the staff of the HS Program is how to be a loving and safe container for the participants. During staff orientation, as well as during our staff meetings through out the week, we talk in depth about what is the most loving thing to do when someone breaks a guideline. Usually those who get into the most trouble are those who are in particular need of love, and the most loving thing to do is be clear about where the line is, especially when they’ve crossed it. Confrontation is a dialogue, and comes from a place of love.
What about people in a non-Gathering, non-Quaker setting? When they break the law or cross a line, they are in need of love and support just as much as participants in the High School Program at FGC Gathering. How do I extend love to a stranger who has violated my space and security, who has caused me strife, and who I will never meet? How do I acknowledge this person (or people)’s need for support without pitying them, without feeling holier-than-thou pride for extending love in such a situation, and without invalidating my own pain? I still don’t know, but I definitely moved out of that apartment as fast as I could.
When I got back from Gathering I discovered that the only thing I lost was a bag of quarters I’d been saving to do laundry. A couple of the roommates told me that they’re pretty sure it was the neighbors downstairs who were the culprits, based on how they got in and some events that had happened in the past. I don’t know what the police think, and I don’t expect to ever know for sure.
It would have been noble to stay and say that I don’t care about my material possessions, that those in greater need were free to take them if they were that desperate. Perhaps someone else would have been able to stay, willingly sacrificing their sense of safety as a witness to the greater need of others, but that wasn’t something I was ready to do, nor did I feel called to it.
As it turns out, it was a blessing for me to have an opportunity to move out. Way opened.
Before I end this post I’ll ask my question once again: How do I acknowledge someone’s need for love and support when they have hurt me, without pitying them their desperation, without holier-than-thou pride, and without invalidating my own pain?
I still don’t have any answers, but asking the question is a good first step.
Love and Light,