When the worst brings out our best
By Christian Piatt
Originally published in PULP Magazine
I’ve been robbed a couple of times since we moved back to Pueblo, and it never ceases to piss me off. I had the front bumper and the license plates from my old truck taken, along with cash and other stuff, but it was no different in Fort Worth. I lost a few car stereos and an equivalent number of front windows in our few years there. So I don’t hold a particular grudge against the crime here.
Then somebody ripped off the church.
We’ve been tagged a couple of times, being over on the south side near some known gang activity. So far, we’ve been able to remove or paint over it all, but recently someone actually got inside and took some stuff.
Clearly it was someone along, on foot and it a hurry, because they left things like my amplifier, the computer in the office and some other potentially valuable items. But they did take the projector, valued at several hundred dollars, which we learned only on Sunday morning when we went to use it and it was gone.
The entire service was thrown into minor chaos, both because we had to scramble for a replacement and because there’s something very unsettling about getting robbed. Even in a church, where the stuff is communally owned, it feels like a deeply personal violation.
What’s funny is that the projector being gone didn’t torque me as much as when I realized they had taken the little coin bank from the altar, which was in the shape to the church, where kids and others had been putting their change for months to give to our denomination’s new church ministry.
That does it. I don’t care how badly you needed the money, or if you spent it on medical bills or a cure for cancer; whoever did it officially became an asshole in my book at that moment.
I’ve been getting over the anger gradually, but what has made the greatest difference has been the response of the people at the church. Within a couple of days, we had one person donate a permanent replacement projector to the church, and another family offered to pay for one before they knew about the replacement. I encouraged them to put that generosity to good use in one of our other causes, to which they gladly agreed.
We also had a local band offer to do a fundraising concert for the church building, which has undergone no small number of repairs in the last couple of years, just to keep from falling apart. So as I stepped back from my rage about the violation, I saw the grace, love and generosity that overshadowed all of the ugliness.
Now that’s church at its best.
It’s funny sometimes how we have to be faced with a challenging situation in order for the best of us to rise to the surface. For me, the incident certainly brought out less than my best side, so I’m grateful that so many others are more gracious than I.
Now, if we could just tap into a steady flow of that collective spirit, even when we’re not in the midst of crisis, we might just make something of this little blue marble we call home