As many of you know, in May of last year, my parents house was robbed along with several others in our neighborhood in the surrounding weeks. While the man responsible was arrested a week later and has been detained ever since, I’ve discovered the wounds from this experience have carried with me even to this day, almost nine months later.
While it manifested itself in different ways for each of us, in the immediate days and weeks surrounding the burglary, there was a feeling of vulnerability and panic among the members of my family. We were acutely aware of how we would leave things in the house when we’d go out, as if taking a mental inventory of what went where in case it happened again. We repeatedly checked locked doors and reconsidered where we left our valuables. To this day, I still hide my jewelry and laptop when I leave my house.
Having grown up in the suburbs of a major city, I think it’s natural to have an elevated awareness of your surroundings and develop general street smarts. This experience has taught me that anyone can be a victim and vulnerable regardless of whether they live in poverty or in wealth, but also that in the end, these things we hold so dear to us are really just that; things. With that perspective in mind, in the months following the burglary, I thought I had mostly moved on.
When I moved to the Miami area in August, I had my guard up higher than I realized. Prior to the move, I spent countless hours reading commentary from the looney-bins on the internet and listening to family and friend’s worries about how rough this city can be. Combine the crazies online with a community that, on the surface, looks absolutely nothing like me, plus the wounds I still carried from the burglary, and you had one paranoid little Northern Virginian living in South Florida.
As I settled in to my new home, the locals warned me about going out after dark, staying near the streetlights and not walking – anywhere, ever. I transferred some of my personal fears to my roommates, who then began hiding their laptops and second guessed walking in communities they’d been walking in for almost a year. While I felt justified at the time, in hindsight, I’m saddened by how, like so many others do, I wrote off a community before I had taken the time to know a community.
In a way, I feel that fear indicates a lack of trust in the sovereignty of God. While I’ve never doubted God’s hand in literally shoving me out of my comfort zone and into this crazy community, sometimes I need to remind myself that He called me here. He called me out of my bubble and into the world. He called me to serve, not fear his people.
Throughout my short time here, I’ve began letting my guard down, and even found myself getting defensive at times when people make unfounded comments and judgments about Florida City, because I know they’re making snap judgments just like I did. To assume that everyone is out to hurt your or steal your things is an incredibly damaging way to look at the world. By no means am I suggesting we throw caution to the wind and hurl ourselves into unsafe situations, however, I think it’s important to truly consider the labels we place on communities because they look, smell and feel different from what we might know. Don’t panic, Mom, I still lock my doors and don’t go strolling through the neighborhood in the wee hours of the night, but every day I’m learning to love and embrace a community that once made me feel uneasy and insecure.