One September morning back in Minnesota, I got up early to let the dogs out through the garage door. When I flipped the garage lights on, I groggily noted that one of the light bulbs was burned out. The ceiling was high enough for a ladder, so I told my husband about it and left for work without another thought.
Halfway to work, he called. “I don’t know how to tell you this,” he said. The light bulb was not burned out after all, it was removed, sitting unharmed on the workbench. It took a few seconds for the implication to hit me. Someone had been in our home that night. I couldn’t remember if the door into the house had even been locked that morning…that someone could have easily gotten into our home where we were sleeping. It was a deeply unnerving feeling–that violated feeling people talk about when they’ve been the victim of a crime.
The ending was mostly happy. We placed the light bulb back into its socket and installed 2×4 brackets on either side of the door into the garage…no one was ever going to get in that way again. A week later, there were fresh signs on the outside door jamb that someone had tried again. The new security measures held up, but it unsettled us once again.
We told ourselves it was likely just kids playing a prank. I mean, who unscrews your light bulb just to show you they were there? Nothing in the garage was missing, and if someone had wanted to get into the house, they would have. Still, we weren’t reassured. Most of us Americans are spoiled, without serious safety or security concerns. There are exceptions, of course…millions live in unsafe ghettos. But we live in relative security compared to entire countries whose people live daily without it. Friends from Russia and Brazil marvel at the fact that our homes aren’t walled off. The evening news constantly shows us countries such as Egypt, Syria, and Afghanistan where life is insecure. We watch the far off stories, and–maybe–say a small prayer that there but for the grace of God.
Humans crave security, though most of human history has not afforded it. Safety ranks behind only basic life-sustaining needs in its importance to us. Given life’s uncertainties, many look to an unseen force for our security: if we can’t get it here, is there hope for it elsewhere? Many of us are fortunate to live in a place and time where we will never need to give our safety much more than a second thought. I’d have been perfectly happy to go through my whole life without having to. As for me and my house, we will continue to look Elsewhere for ours.
“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” –Helen Keller