Long Days and Short Years

just trying to pay attention so I don't miss my life

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A Poem for the Person Who Stole My Purse

You know me better than I know you, and so

I’m writing to say hello.  Did you see

the travel mug

or the plastic elephant

before you covered them with broken glass?

Did you think oh this one’s a mother

as you lifted up the little pink raincoat?


You know me better than I know you, and so

I’m writing to see if you could check my planner for me.

What day was that doctor’s appointment?

And what time does Art Camp start?

I forgot to write in “Visit zone five police station”

and “Get new driver’s license.”

Could you add that in for me?


You know me better than I know you, and so

I’m writing to see what you bought at Wal-mart.

Sixteen hundred dollars is a lot to spend on diapers

or food for your family.

The lady on the phone said that it was probably giftcards–

giftcards resold for cash,

cash to feed an addiction.

Only you can tell me who it was you were feeding.

(For your sake, I hope it was kids.)


You know me better than I know you, and so

I’m writing to tell you that I’d like to forgive you,

but it’s hard.

Hard to forgive a theoretical criminal,

my imaginary enemy, and so

I place you in better hands than mine.

You are not unknown,

even if you’d like to be.

But don’t worry,

being known may be your only hope.

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Part Three: Stop Shooting, We Love You

Full disclosure:  This post is only peripherally related to parts one and two, EXCEPT that it follows my train of thought about being neighbors, violence, peacefulness and the general complexity of stories that are ten-second blurbs on the news.  So if you’re up for a ride… all abroard.

To tell this story I need to go back to last summer, a summer known to our neighborhood as something like, “wow, that was a crazy summer.”  In the span of three months we had a shooting, a robbery (or “home invasion” if you would rather feel scared this morning), a one-guy-runs-the-other-one-down-with-his-SUV (is there a shorthand term for this?), a heart attack (to a dear grandma who was caring for four of her teenage grandkids), and a big house fire.  There are so many stories related to these events that I can’t begin to tell, from a sympathy card that made a tough guy cry to my attempts to give a newborn a bottle during an emergency (I forgot to take the storage disc out and the poor baby just wailed and wailed until I figured it out.).  But I will tell one story, and it comes from the people involved in the big house fire.

The fire itself was just what you’re picturing–fire trucks, ladders, soot-covered men doing heroic things.  No one was hurt physically, but the couple who had recently bought the house took a big hit financially because they had not been able to purchase insurance.  In the months that followed there were valiant attempts by the couple and their community to renovate, but it was just too big, too damaged, too much.  They moved to the Southside.

Fast forward a year to… well, now.  The husband of the insuranceless-but-valiant couple–Colin– is riding his bike home, in the Southside, one evening.  At one intersection he vaguely remembers cutting someone off, sortof, but gives the encounter little thought.  However, it turns out that the other guy gave the incident a lot of thought… or at least a lot of emotion.  As Colin carries his bike up the city steps, the driver attacks him with a hunting knife.  Later the doctors would be amazed that every cut missed important organs and blood vessels by millimeters, but the road raging driver was certainly trying to kill him.  Colin lives, the driver disappears, and the story goes on.

Last Sunday Colin gave the message at his church, Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community.  A friend sent me the audio link (http://hotmetalbridgefaithcast.blogspot.com/2012/09/matthew-538-48-colin-albright-look.html), and last night I listened,  absolutely transfixed.  Colin is not a professional preacher, but just a Jesus-following guy talking about a scary thing that happened to him and his reaction to it.  He entitled his message, “Look Crazy Guy, I Forgive You.”

What struck me as I listened was how Colin was naturally, authentically, and almost unconsciously able to react to this situation in the way that I hope I would be able to react if a similarly horrible thing happened to me.  He urged the congregation to pray for his perpetrator,  asking (this is my paraphrase), “Who should you really feel sorry for?  Me, surrounded by this great community, supported by the 700 people who came out for the fundraiser last Saturday (organized by local cyclists), and ultimately at peace; or this crazy guy, who, whether he gets caught or not, is obviously living a miserable existence?”   He also talked about dealing with our own tendencies to anger, pointing out that we each think that our level of anger is normal and justified–and so did the ‘crazy dude’.  Finally, he talked about pushing through the fear that can keep us doing the things that give us life.

All this from the stabbed guy whose house burned out last summer.

This morning I’m thinking about how the word ‘encouragement’ really means to give courage, and I would say that this is what Colin (and the couple who still held their wedding… see Part Two) has given to me… courage.  Because, to be honest, sometimes my natural, authentic, almost unconscious reaction is much more fear-based.  I’m really good at imagining the what-ifs of living in the city, living on our street, or just living at all.  It can be paralyzing.  It can keep me from doing those things that are life giving, for myself or for someone else.

But really, it’s hard for even me, the dedicated worrier, to come up with a pair of situations like what Colin has faced in the last year.  It’s not that it’s been easy for him, or for others who suffer in similar or dissimilar ways.  It’s not easy… but, look, there can be life on the other side.  There can still be healing.  There can still be hope.  As my husband quoted, “Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.”

Colin, thank you.  And crazy guy, watch out– I and a whole bunch of other people are praying for you.