Last Friday evening, I finally got around to cleaning and washing the car, and refilling the windscreen wash. I can’t remember the last time I did any of that, which might tell you something about what it looked like before. The next morning, telling jokes along the way, my children and I walked out to the car to drive to basketball. When we got there I noticed that the driver’s side door frame was bent several inches away from the car. When I opened the door, I understood why: the steering column had been torn apart and the ignition wires were dangling loose.
Someone had tried to steal our car.
We only have the one. Also, it’s old. And once I scratched it on a concrete wall trying to avoid a car on the other side. Why on earth would someone want to steal it? Yes, it was clean for the first time in ages, but believe me it would take more than a wash to make it an attractive car.
The would-be robbers probably targeted our car because they thought it would be an easy hit. They were unsuccessful, so it’s still there—useless because they destroyed it in the process of trying to take it. They left fingerprints as well.
But they were in my car. Sitting in the seat where my wife and I sit, with the children behind us. They were going to take it, with the Bible in the glovebox and the kids’ art supplies and the binoculars under the back seat ready for us if we happen to want them on a hike and the letter I put in the night before so I would remember to mail it. Just like that. Just pry it open and take it all.
For what, I don’t know. Maybe they had a reason. Or maybe the reason was just the thrill of power that comes from doing what other people don’t want you to do and lock doors to keep you from doing. That makes me nervous, because I don’t know what else people will do, or when they will try. Being a human is hard enough without the burden of not being able to trust other humans. Without the burden of not being able to trust locks. If the would-be robbers had genuinely needed something, they could have asked and I would have been willing to help, or at least try. But I don’t think they needed anything as much as they needed a new way of thinking about the world and the people around them. I hope someday they figure out that real happiness doesn’t come from using your power against others and taking their things for yourself, but rather from using your power and your things for the good of others.
Like my neighbours: When they found out what had happened, we were flooded with help. One neighbour checked his CCTV for us remotely, even though he was out of the country on holiday. Another brought supplies to keep rain from getting in the bent door. Several came over or texted to offer to shop for us or let us borrow their cars. As more people found out, we got offers of all kinds of help from all around the village. A friend from Bible study even dropped a car over to us and said “use it for as long as you like”.
There’s a way of living that seeks power in hurting others and taking from them. And that is a kind of power. A terrible kind. But it’s not the only power, or even the most powerful. When our neighbours and friends came together for us so quickly and freely, I saw what real power is—the kind that no one can steal.
The whole experience has left me with two questions:
- What was the point of washing the car?
- How could we ever measure the value of a strong community?