This is the story about the time that all of my camera equipment got stolen and how it's turned out to be one of the sweetest times of our lives. It begins early June; I had just finished second-shooting a local wedding and was making my way through a heavy summer thunderstorm to meet Ben and some MFA friends for a birthday celebration at a local establishment. I parked, placed my bags behind my seat and made a run for the bar through the rain. We celebrated. Forty-five minutes later Ben and I ran back to our respective vehicles and I heard rain even after I closed the car door. Feeling flighty, I cursed for leaving my window down. But that was dumb because I didn't have my windows down... it was raining on the drive over. So then that thing happened when your stomach shoots up into your throat and you don't know whether to cry or throw-up or runaway. A glance behind the seat to an empty floorboard, save for the shattered glass, confirmed my fear and I neither cried nor regurgitated -- I simply cursed some more. I honked the horn to get Ben's attention as he was leaving the parking lot. He paused and I swore the whole way as I ran to his car. Two bags of camera equipment - everything I owned - gone. In some ways, I waited for Ben's reaction to be a gauge for my own; he never panicked or became embittered, he didn't blame me, and as much as I wanted to do all of the above, his actions encouraged me not to. I sank into the driver's seat while he looked around and then I wept. We made our way back to our apartment where he allowed me to be still and mourn while he called the cops, filed the report, changed all our passwords, contacted the insurance company, put a tarp over the car, skeptically downloaded a third party tracking system to my stolen phone, and rocked me to sleep.
At church the next morning we heard an all-too-applicable sermon about loving others, not judging, and being angry but not bitter. Encouraged and convicted, I came home to several emails tracking my phone's journey from 2am to 10am. The GPS tracking application that we had downloaded the night before took a few hours to activate and then provided us with a surplus of emails, following the phone's journey from the bar to an address just a few blocks away. And so, we went on our first stake out.
Ben contacted the police about our situation and they informed us that an officer could meet us in the vicinity of the address and then approach the location. Our adrenaline carried us through the first few hours as we waited for the cops; by God's grace we were able to laugh with each other during that time, hypothesizing conversations that begin with the phrase "we have reason to believe," and creating undercover investigator names for each other: Bullet Proof Glass & The Thorn-ed Lily (the later only created once I insisted that Ben's first suggestion "Lily Pad," wasn't tough enough). A friend kept watch over my email account should another address pop up. The cops finally arrived and they informed us that all they could do was knock on the door, but we wanted to exhaust every possibility of recovering the equipment.
After a total of six hours in the car, three separate policemen, a trip back to church for good fellowship, two different addresses and two unanswered doors, discouraged, we roamed a crowded Target replacing ridiculous things like chap-stick and cover-up that also happened to be in my camera bag (conveniently the robbery took place the same day as an unforgiving facial break-out). Ben and I called around, hoping to find ourselves in the company of good friends rather than sulking together at home. Despite a busy finals week, our dear friends dropped what they were doing and invited us and our frozen pizza into their home. We all listened as Ben dramatically retold the last 24 hours and I found myself, like the others, holding out for the happy ending that seemed inevitable in his storytelling.
They gave us the best thing anyone could have that night - time, empathy & good company. This was only the beginning of our grace flood. Over the next four days we filed with our renter's insurance and received about a quarter of the equipment cost in return (yes, readers, you're correct, I should have had business insurance but as I mentioned earlier, I know all the woulda, coulda, shoulda's now). Because I was on a job, I had every piece of equipment that I owned -- primary and backup -- that I had acquired over the last decade; the majority of the professional grade over the last year. Replacing everything would be a step by step process and we took turns reassuring each other that God would provide and encouraging one another with words from a good friend "everyone takes it on the chin in their twenties." This was a big hit.
Aware of our situation, two families approached us that week with generous financial gifts. They had each received this money unexpectedly and so, so selflessly, had been looking for a way to share it. Glad to do it, they insisted that it was a gift, that by definition nothing was expected in return. We were more than overwhelmed & simultaneously humbled by their generosity and sensitive spirits. Each time I remember these situations I'm brought to tears; I don't expect that to ever change and I hope that Ben and I have the chance to show such grace to someone in the future.
I had to re-schedule 5 photo shoots and pray that my back-ordered 5DMark II would arrive before we left town for two weddings. The sympathetic and gracious responses that I received from my clients reminded me why I love my job. I got emails encouraging me that bad things often happen when people are doing what they're meant to do; one email response began with "Hello Un-welcome Character Development...." One individual even offered their vehicle if we needed one while our window was being repaired.
A few days after the robbery we found ourselves back at the same establishment, celebrating another MFA friend's birthday. I felt a small and admittedly ridiculous victory in returning to the scene of the crime.... Word about the situation had spread and we were greeted with sympathy and righteous anger; before we had even arrived there was talk amongst our friends of a fundraiser. I wrote it off, not because of a lack of genuineness on their part, but logistically, especially in the middle of the summer, such an event would be too much work for one person. Their thoughtfulness was enough to encourage and support us. The following day I awoke to a thread of emails to which I had been added mid-conversation for logistical purposes. The previous messages had been brainstorms about the fundraiser: dates, themes, locations, foods, guests, cover charge, etc. And I cried again.
Almost exactly one month after the incident, we found ourselves surrounded by our sweetest friends, good food, a seemingly bottomless keg and endless support. The fundraiser (affectionately referred to as "Free Lily"), took place in our backyard. Our good friends and members of the Well-Dressed Downs performed their last (for now), Columbus show in our apartment and despite the heat, 40 people happily crammed themselves into our tiny space - my heart has never felt so full. Thank you, thank you. Individuals that were out of town or unable to attend mailed sweet notes and donations; some folks I had only met once. We knew that we would be okay and find our feet again, but we never imagined that we would be so encouraged and loved along the way.
Photos from the "Garden Party" Fundraiser & a sweet time of hangout with some friends who weren't able to make it.
Two years ago Ben and I drove from his parent's place in Wilmington, Ohio, up to Columbus every day for two weeks looking for a place to live in a city we knew nothing about. If you had asked me about our transition at that point I would have grumbled something about the dooming winter and the lack of sweet tea, convinced that it would be a three year stop on our way to a bigger adventure. But our time in Columbus has been so rich -- full of people and experiences that we wouldn't trade for the world. We have been overwhelmed by the goodness of folks, their genuine care for other people. We recently met with some friends from church who reminded us that "grace should feel weird because it's a big deal. If you deserved it, it wouldn't be grace." We have experienced an outpouring of grace from all the people that we are blessed to know. And so, it has become so much bigger than a lesson in responsible business-ownership or a super inconvenient bump in the road - we have come to know that we have a big, genuine, good-hearted, fun-loving, generous family here in Columbus and we are thrilled to have at least another year here. Whatever and wherever our next adventure may be, C-bus will always be a home and this season of our life will remain one of our sweetest.