It’s been almost two weeks since my entire backpack was stolen from a locked office in one of the hospitals where I work occasional chaplain shifts. It was evening, and I had wrapped up some pretty tough visits, and I was more than ready to call it a day and head home when I returned to the office and my bag had simply vanished. I’d studied all morning, since my doctoral comprehensive exams are just six weeks away, and so of course my laptop was in my backpack. So were my wallet, keys, ID’s, and even my camera, which I’d put in my bag that morning because my closest friends here in Nashville had given birth to their first child early that morning at the same hospital and I thought I’d snap a few pictures after work. It’s all gone. There’s no trace of it, no suspect, no reason to think I’ll ever see any of it again. Turns out there were thefts from that office years ago and chaplains asked for better security but nothing changed. There are no cameras in that poorly lit area, and I was appalled to find out that “they” really don’t know who has master keys to access that office. The office wasn’t broken into, so most likely it was another employee who did it.
My stomach turned into a raisin that night and hasn’t really unclenched, nor has sleep come easy. That first night I woke up kicking and punching the air, my body no doubt trying to find an outlet for the anger and fear and frustration. Someone has my address, my housekey, my car key, etc. etc. etc. You can lie awake and worry to no end about questions that have no answers. What did this person want? Was it the $10 cash in my wallet? Maybe the rest of the backpack was tossed into the trash and my stuff is just rotting somewhere. Maybe the thief got enough info to try stealing my identity. Maybe all the precious files and pictures on my computer have been swiftly erased. Meanwhile I’ve been picking through my old backups and email and my Dropbox and Google accounts, trying to figure out what I still have access to and what is just plain gone. Some of it was backed up on USB flash drives; those were in the bag too. And while I’ve been canceling cards and changing passwords and checking my credit report and trying not to be completely consumed with all the “what ifs” and “I should haves,” the hospital system has been quite indifferent, unconcerned, uncompassionate–and has made it clear that I won’t get any help in replacing my things (the value of which far exceeds the cumulative pay I’ve earned since I took this job six months ago).
I’m frustrated, discouraged, and unsure what it looks like to “move on.” I know this is only a very tiny example in the big scheme of unjust things that happen to human beings, and I am trying to trust that this incident will eventually fade in the rear view mirror, but right now it feels like such a setback, one that will require more grit to get through than I have on reserve. I know I’ll replace some of the material things that were taken, but there’s no replacing the things that had sentimental weight, nor the notebooks and files of handwritten ideas and research notes. I’m also not sure there’s a replacement for the trust and respect I used to feel for this healthcare organization, which happens to be the first faith-based one I’ve worked for. Being a chaplain can be thankless enough to begin with, and I am struggling to understand how best to weather this experience while keeping my self-respect intact.
Can you relate? What hard-won wisdom can you share about how you have dealt with setbacks?