It was a Thursday night.
My husband and I had just finished eating sushi with his brother and his brother’s girlfriend. We finally felt like we had moved forward from the Saturday night invasion of our home and were excited at the prospect of continuing to decorate and prepare for our house warming party later that month. We hadn’t yet hung up the artwork that we collected during the months that we were engaged. We hadn’t yet finished building our bookshelves and setting up a spice rack. We hadn’t yet hosted a Shabbat meal.
We got home that night and noticed that the door to our home was slightly a-jar. Too afraid to enter, I asked my husband to step inside before me. And there, as if I knew what he was going to say, my husband exclaimed: “What are you doing in our home?”
Expecting to see a man behind the door, my heart began to beat faster and faster... but then as my husband opened the door to reveal who the intruder was, I saw a woman - eyes watery, mouth drooling, pants falling off her behind, holding onto our laptop. A crack addict? A mentally ill individual? Who was this woman and why was our house her target? The never-ending: Why Why Why marathon kicked in.
We kept her in the building until the police came to take her away. As it turns out, she had a key to our apartment and admitted to entering our home many times.
I hadn’t misplaced my Shabbat candle sticks, she stole them.
My husband hadn’t misplaced his phone charger, she took it.
She had been coming in, taking things one at a time, causing us to joke about having a robber while putting the guilt of misplacing these items onto ourselves.
How long would this game have continued had we not caught her on Thursday night?
How might we have been harmed had this been an aggressive criminal with a weapon?
While the traumatic scene at our front door instantaneously become etched into my memory - and every time I walk into our home, I fear just who might pop out from behind the wall, the gratitude I feel for the what could have been softens the trauma and numbs the pain. The, “It could have been worse” marathon kicked in.
My dad often tells me, “Ariela, I have always believed that there are angels protecting you.” And it wasn’t until this past Saturday when his message finally set in.
The Saturday morning after the second robbery, I was walking down Eastern Parkway, digesting the events of the past week. No phone, no music, no backpack - just me. As I walked on my way a woman, with whom I would not normally engage in conversation, came up to me and said, “Whatever you are going through; remember that someone is going through something even more difficult.” As these words left her mouth, my mind returned to what my Dad always told me, “Ariela there are angels protecting you.”
How did she know about what happened? How did she know that I needed to hear this, in this way, on this day? She was my angel.
Now, it is not in my nature to simmer in the bad, rather I sometimes too quickly seek the “everything happens for a reason pill” or the “this too shall pass fix” or the “you must be strong enough to handle this drug.”
I do not mean to imply that it is wrong or phony or unhealthy to take refuge in the Divine when dealing with what seems like inexplicable pain and suffering, but I do think that it is important to surrender to the process we must go through in order to understand and make peace with the unpredictable and uncontrollable events that take place in our lives.
Feelings are part of what make us special and by repressing the hurt, the anger and the pain, we are denying one of the most important features that makes us so holy…. Our ability to feel and empathize with one another. Our ability to be angels for each other.
The woman who came up to me on Saturday morning reminded me of one of the important ingredients when it comes to healing: other people - not just the people who look like us and walk like us and talk like us but the people who we wouldn’t think we have anything in common with and yet we do. The people who we walk by without the slightest regard for how our lives may be intertwined and yet they are.
The most significant experiences that we have happen to everyone.
Talking to her allowed me to connect to the greater world of suffering and therefore the greater world of healing. Being fully present with her, I grasped the interconnectedness that we all share in times of joy and in times of pain. It was precisely my feelings of hurt that allowed her to uplift me into a space of healing. Had I not been honest with my feelings, how would she have been able to connect with me? If we are not genuine with who we are, how will we be able to heal ourselves and one another?
Now as I think of what my dad always tells me, "Ariela there are angels protecting you.” I'd like to add, "...And these angels come in all shapes and sizes..."