“Who would do such a thing?” Caroline demanded of me. She stooped next to the console table that held her stereo sweeping up bits of broken pottery from a small blue and white porcelain plate. The stereo was gone.
“What happened?” I asked.
“Someone broke into the house,” she told me as she chased down the remaining shards.
“How awful!” I replied. I glanced through the kitchen at the back door. “Where’d they break in?”
Caroline stood up and pushed heavy red waves of hair off her face, “I left the door unlocked so the girls could get in.”
Sneaker clad footsteps sounded in the hall overhead. Farrah clomped down the steps as she announced, “My TV’s gone. Adhita’s boom box and camera are missing too.” She halted in the dining room doorway, “Ma! Why didn’t you just lock the door?”
“You girls lose your keys. I get sick of you breaking the windows.” Caroline espied more pottery shards and bent to corral them.
Thank You, I prayed again.
“Who’d do such a thing?” Caroline demanded looking up at me.
“Burglars,” I told her with a shrug.
“But why would burglars come into my house?” she asked.
My initial response remained unvoiced, Because the door was unlocked. I said, “That’s what burglars do,” Farrah nodded in agreement.
“I need my things,” Caroline whined. “I don’t have money to replace them.”
“Burglars rob poor people too,” Farrah said. I shrugged in agreement. “We should just lock the door,” she added.
“When I was a girl…” Caroline began.
Farrah interrupted her, “You never locked your doors. No one ever broke in.”
“That’s right,” Caroline told her. “That’s the way a neighbourhood is supposed to be.”
Farrah eyes caught mine. I let out a low, controlled sigh.
“Ma,” Farrah answered. “We don’t live in the country. We live in New York. There are projects four blocks away.”
“I shouldn’t have to lock my door. We’ve never had any trouble before.”
Farrah sputtered. My eyes widened.
“I thought you’d been robbed twice in the past,” I blurted.
“Well, yes…” Caroline began.
“And didn’t you rent to that man who was wanted for burglary and rape? Wasn’t he convicted?” I demanded of her.
“Yes,” Caroline admitted and then brightened, “But he didn’t rob us.”
I quashed a snort.
“Burglary was his job,” Farrah told her. “He didn’t work at home.”
Caroline looked up at me. I nodded.
“It’s earth,” I told her.
“What do you mean, ‘it’s earth’?” she insisted. “You say that but I never know what you mean.”
I released a sharp sigh. “Neighbourhoods aren’t the way they’re supposed to be. There are burglars and children who lose their keys and unlocked doors. So bad things happen.”
“But I didn’t do anything to the robber,” she whined.
“Robbers rob,” Farrah replied. “They don’t say,” she continued in a low, hollow register, “‘I won’t rob Caroline and her kids because they’re good people.'” Her voice returned to its accustomed contralto, “They look for houses that are easy to rob and just steal.”
“But I’m a Christian,” she insisted.
My forehead wrinkled. My head shook, “It doesn’t work that way.”
“Ma,” Farrah interjected. “Robbers don’t care if we’re Christian.”
“They should!” Caroline seemed about to stamp her foot. Farrah and I exchanged another glance.
“You mean everybody else gets robbed?” I asked. “But Christians get a free pass?”
“Why not? What good is that… What do you call it?” She waved the broom in the air as if she could sweep the words onto her tongue. “Abundant life,” she nodded. “What good is it if there’s no abundance?” She held the broom and dust pan before her like a sword and shield.
“You only get abundant life if earth is earth,” I said. “When some stranger has invaded your home and your stuff is gone, abundant life means the losing doesn’t define you. Mistakes don’t define us. God does. And you know you’ll be okay because Christ holds you and the whole, crazy world in His hands.”
“I want my stuff,” Caroline insisted.
“I’m sorry your stuff was stolen,” I replied. “It’s horrible. Why not call the police?”
“They’re no help,” Caroline said. She shook her head. “I need to make dinner,” she said carrying the broom and dust pan to the cupboard. “Why don’t you stay?”
“Sure,” I replied.
Help her D’Abby, I prayed.