Two weeks ago Friday I was home alone and was force-fed a lesson in gratitude.

See, I wasn’t really home alone.

I was on the couch working on an essay for SheLoves, Lucy was at tennis, and Tom had just left for football. And then I heard a noise from the front entrance. And then I saw a man standing by our water jugs, rifling through items on the front table.

I hollered, “hey!”

He answered in broken French that he was looking for someone named David. I shouted at him to leave, to get out. We stood in the hallway for a while staring at each other, so close I could have grabbed him. He turned and ran out the door.

He stole three thousand franc, about $18, the cash I had on the front table to pay Lucy’s monthly dues at tennis. Other than that he didn’t have time to swipe anything.

money1

It wasn’t until he was gone that I fully realized what had happened and what could have happened. I started shaking and half-crying/half hyper-ventilating. Often thieves here carry knives. What if he knew I was home alone? What if I had been upstairs or hadn’t seen the shadow of his movement in the hallway. What if he hadn’t run away?

People here expect thieves. I wouldn’t say Djibouti has an inordinate amount of thieves and there is amazingly little violent crime. Petty theft is fairly common though so no one was surprised to hear my story.

Friends are shocked, however, when I tell them about our break-in in Minnesota last fall. It seems to shatter an illusion of America as paradise and Americans as incapable of criminal behavior. Other than, of course, when it comes to international military action.

barbed1

Being robbed is always terrifying and infuriating and leaves one feeling vulnerable and violated. In addition to that swell of emotion, I decided to feel thankful. I was thankful for the stark, brutal look at reality. Thankful for the way this makes me look at people and wealth and desperation and the human need for God. Thankful for the way Djiboutian friends and I can relate and for their concern.

I counted and we have been robbed at least 13 times in the last ten years (not counting being robbed of our home, all possessions, jobs, and security when we evacuated from Somaliland) and we have been robbed in five different countries. That makes me thankful for mercy and that only things have been taken.

I prayed for release from fear and I prayed for the thief, that he would use the three thousand franc for food and not for khat or alcohol.

Have you been robbed in a foreign country? In the United States?