I have had a week now to think about our car being broke into and all the circumstances leading up to it. We were driving home from visiting family and stopped off in an unfamiliar city. Chris and I are pretty avid travelers and usually smart about the dangers/challenges of travel. Our car was full of all the things you take as a family of 7 when you’ll be gone for a bit. To break up the drive home, we decided to stop by City Museum in St. Louis. We had researched all about the museum, but had not looked into the crime rate surrounding the museum. I wish we had. A simple google search would have shown us that the parking garages and lots surrounding the museum have held the largest concentration of car burgularies in the city…already 330 in the last 6 months (according to City Museum). However, we didn’t know that. We parked in a place we thought was safe, highly visual and everything was covered.
Then we walked into the museum. As someone held the door open for us, we did not see the small sign taped to the door warning museum visitors about car break-ins.
A few hours later, we returned to find a hole punched below the car door handle (disabling the car alarm and lock) and our car basically cleared out. As a parent, my concern is always my kids first. As they were processing their own feelings of loss and being violated, I knew they were intently looking to Chris and I regarding how to respond. Soon after we met individuals that saw a young man in our car with his black pick-up pulled up next to ours. They thought things looks suspicious as he slowly went through our car.
A police report was filed. Long conversations had with the law enforcement. Lots of questions and little answers. Eventually, we began driving home.
The car was pretty quiet as the kids were concerned for their parents. We began counting all the good in our lives. We considered the danger those that saw the break-in were potentially in and chose to be grateful that they were not harmed. We chose to be thankful we did not witness it either – knowing we could have put ourselves in a very dangerous situation. We chose to be grateful he didn’t take our car – we were able to drive home. As we pulled into the driveway, I joked that at least I didn’t have to wash any dirty clothes.
We soon began the work of listing all that was gone. Easy things to replace like toothbrushes and shoes. Irreplaceable things like my Bible – filled over the years with notes to my kids, answered prayers and struggles. Things that hurt financially. Each day we remember something else that was tucked in someone’s bag. Each day I am reminded it is all just stuff.
Each day I get into my car and I think about the young man that was sitting in my seat a week ago. While I expected to feel anger and a general sense of yucki-nesss – that is not where I am landing. I keep thinking about his story. I don’t know anything about him, but I do know that no one just goes from being a newborn to robbing cars. While I do not condone his actions, I don’t have overwhelming feelings of hate or anger towards him.
Chris works hand in hand with the Department of Human Services in Oklahoma. Our dinner conversations often land on issues related to foster care and vulnerable children in our state. When vulnerable children do not have a safe, loving home to grow up in, they often become at-risk teens. At-risk teens, who age out of the system, are set up for failure. When you are fighting to stay alive – everyone can become the enemy, even yourself.
*Graphic from fosterclub.com
The young man who broke into my car has a story. I can’t change his story, but I can advocate for other young men and women, who are on a dangerous course if someone doesn’t step up and in their lives.
Of the 609 children currently available for adoption in Oklahoma, 45% of those are 13 years old and older.
Of the 392 families waiting to adopt in Oklahoma, only 47 are open to adopting a child 13 years or older.
If the greatest need in Oklahoma regarding foster care and adoption is for teens, I am guessing most states are the same. I asked Chris what kind of families are needed to step up – knowing often families with young kids are encouraged not to. Instantly, Chris responded, “Empty nesters.”
Many teens in the foster care system need strong, gracious, firm and compassionate homes. They need the love and attention that empty nesters are uniquely qualified to give. However, that doesn’t exempt the rest of us. Some of us are in a perfect spot to welcome a teen into our homes. Some of us can volunteer. We can mentor. We can throw open our front door and say, “Dinner is always at 6:00.”
As I sit in my car and I think about the young man, who sat there last week, my hope and prayer for him is that someone would come alongside him and speak truth, grace, compassion and hope into his life.
I miss my Bible, I miss my favorite jeans, my planner, and bags of other ‘important and valuable’ stuff, but at the end of the day it really is just stuff.
As we continue working through the hassle of last week, the insurance, the inconvinences and the loss, I want to lead my children well. When I tell them that our treasure is not in the temporal, I want them to see it in me. When we talk about how everyone has a story and compassion is a great first response, I want them to see it in me. Lastly, I want to use this experience to advocate and raise awareness for the need of loving adults to step up and step into the lives of hurting kids, teens and young adults. As I tell my kids, “Let’s be the change, not just complain.”
*Sidenote: As I was working on this, Chris got a call from someone in Virginia who found his planner in the back of a car she rented while in St. Louis. That thing is full of notes and dreams regarding foster care in our state, I’m so thankful it will soon be back in his hands!