Cigarette smoke. I glanced across the street and noticed my neighbor Steve's car in the driveway. His garage door open. Probably Steve's cigarette smoke. I then realized the dog next door had been barking non-stop since I had set foot outside. This doberman did not usually bark endlessly for no reason as the owners were so good about quieting him. That is - - when they were home.
I opened the backyard gate, stepped a few feet in the yard and inhaled. No cigarette smoke there. I guess I had been thinking I would see someone smoking in my backyard! All clear, it must be Steve I reasoned. I headed back to the carport for a mop and bucket. The strong stench of cigarette smoke again invaded my nostrils. Myself a former smoker, I was now convinced this was not a smoking cigarette from afar. But a cigarette close by.
Instincts kicked in. I set the mop and bucket down, headed down my driveway. I was going to knock on the door next door just to make sure everything was okay. The next door neighbor had been broken into in broad daylight not even eight months prior. I knew they left their bathroom window open during the day and the dog would not have been able to reach that part of the yard because of the fence. Could someone be breaking in as a look out smoked a cigarette outside? I know that sounds crazy, but our neighborhood has experienced alot of crime recently. I envisioned this scenario.
As I walked by my front porch, I looked to my left and saw a bright red shirt in a pile next to my front porch chair. I took two steps forward and saw a pack of cigarettes on my table. Whhhaaaattttt???? Fresh cigarette smoke was in the air but I saw no one. Then I saw the bricks that were strewn across the driveway as if someone had stumbled over the brick plant bedding border in a hasty exit.
I ran back inside the house, locked the laundry room door, slammed the back french doors shut, made sure the front door was locked, set the alarm and called 911. I was not fearful, anxious or out of breath. I was angry. I had been inside without a care in the world while a complete stranger sat in the wicker chair on my front porch smoking inches from my bedroom window.
Hardly a minute later an officer approached the front door. Having watched so many CSI detective shows as well as remembering the dreaded dress Monica Lewinsky saved "just in case" I had left everything right where it was. Another officer asked a few questions and was off in search of a shirtless person (of course I assumed it was a man but the police would only describe a suspect as a "person"). The officer donned rubber gloves and methodically put everything in a paper sack.
I then knocked on my neighbor's door as the officer waited in my driveway. We needed to know if she saw anyone at my house. An elderly widow from the end of the cul de sac anxiously stood at the end of her driveway with a worried look on her face wondering what was happening on a friday at about four o'clock. She noticed the two police cars parked haphazardly at the end of the street. We motioned her to come down to my house. Us three women stood in the street. Each commented on the increase in this type of trespassing in the last two years. "Signs of the times", I said. "Signs of the times."
Five minutes had passed and the call came. The officer told me they had caught him. The suspect was found in the park. Did I want to press charges for trespassing? "Yes!" I told the officer. And then the officer's twenty five years of experience kicked in as he plead for this person. This caucasian thirty-something admitted he had sat on my front porch to get out of the heat. He had been kicked out of his girlfriend's house four days prior. He had lived two towns away and was recently "homeless". And intoxicated. And he had assumed no one was home and he would not be found sitting there for a bit. I was told he did not have a weapon. He did not fit the character of someone waiting for his accomplice to break in to my house. He was merely hot and tired and had chosen my house for refuge.
I experienced a brief second of doubt as to whether to press trespassing charges. I hung up and called my husband for advice. I was pretty much set on giving this guy a trip to the local jail. "No, don't press charges", my kind hearted husband informed me "but tell the cop to tell him if he ever steps foot on any of our properties again, he's going to jail."
And so the man was released back into the park at the end of my street, where he had run from me without a shirt or cigarettes. He no doubt was given back his property.
As I headed back up my driveway, I decided to sit in the chair where that man had sat only 15 minutes ago. I wondered what he had been thinking when he heard me take out the recycling. Had he thought the doberman was mine (we have a Beware of Dog sign on our gate for security) and I was going to let him loose? Did he see me and panic? Or was he too intoxicated to think clearly?
And then as so often God speaks to me after my emotions or my controlling behaviour comes to an end, I heard that still small voice that only God uses to get my attention, "Did he see the sign?" Sign??? And I look to my right and realize the big sunflower flag with Be Still and Psalm 46:10 written on it is slowly waving in the breeze. Only days before, I had taken down the Leprechaun flag for St. Patty's Day.
Did this person see that welcoming flag and the comfy wicker chair set in the shade? Did he choose our house to rest and feel safe because there was no car in the driveway (we only have one car)? Or God, was it your sweet spirit wooing him there because You knew my husband would be the one person to give him grace and not press charges for trespassing?
Tears rolled down my cheeks. I felt sad. Had he knocked would I have given him water? If he had asked to sit there would I have called the police? God, how sad that we pray to help the lost and we pray to entertain angels unaware, and this person ran from me so fast that he tripped over bricks, left his clothes and belongings to escape me! I also felt conviction. For the two ladies and I had commented that of course this person was "black". We had wrongly assumed. We had behaved badly.
I learned alot that day. Several security measures we now implement. I will never leave the front blinds open just so the cat can see out while I leave the back french door ajar! That was quite stupid. If this person had been targeting our house to break in, I would have made it quite easy for him that day!
I felt protected by the Lord. I calmly handled the situation and allowed the officers to catch the suspect. My husband and I being the Crimewatch Captains for our neighborhood, I realized that day that all of the training we had received the past year from our local police station had sunk in. I knew what to do and did it with a clear mind. I felt this may have been a sort of "fire drill" possibly for something in the future. Of course I do not want to be a victim but I want to be the victor - always...
He chose the right house to rest. I pray he remembers the words on that flag, Be Still and discovers the rest of the verse. I pray that every person - shirtless or other - will see messages such as this waving in the breeze and seek out the true rest that only comes from Him.