So, I walk out my front door this morning and there, spread across my front lawn, are the contents of my briefcase-and my briefcase itself, lying there, splayed obscenely on the grass, pitiful and violated. It was one of those moments when you stand dumbly, your mouth stupidly agape, and you try to pay some vague attention to what comes out first. In my case it was an incredulous "Whaaaa...?", and I was quietly proud that I didn't say anything else.
I walked tentatively down the steps, trying to piece together what had happened. Dimly, last night's events reconstructed themselves: I got home late from a movie screening and noticed thatt the "for sale" sign on my lawn had been lifted from its post hole and laid across the grass. That seemed odd, but I replaced it and went inside-forgetting to lock the car and leaving my brief case in the trunk...with...my...CAMERA!!
My camera! My really nice Sony digital SLR that I'd bought just three months ago. I quickly went to pop the trunk, but it wasn't necessary-it was already popped, sitting there open about a half-inch. I lifted the lid, but I knew exactly what I would find, and that was nothing. I dropped my chin to my chest. On that camera's memory card were about 300 pictures, most of which I'd already downloaded to my home computer, but the last 20 or so were of Father's Day, two days ago, and so they were lost forever.
Glumly, I wandered the yard, gathering the papers the thief didn't bother to take-papers that included bank deposit slips, a pay stub, a Living Social receipt for a hot air balloon ride. He left a thumb drive that has on it every chapter of every book I've ever written and tried in vain to sell, and two other drives that have on them every episode of the Movies for Grownups radio show that I've done over the past seven years. And he left untouched the Franklin-Covey scheduler that is my life blood-and folded within it my only copy of the death certificate of my wife Cindy, who two weeks from now will have passed away a year ago. Also in that scheduler reside the phone numbers and addresses of everyone I love, their birthdays (which I still forget too often), and records of the myriad professional appointments that, when someone invades your life like this, seem to fade in importance to the point of irrelevance.
I'd been on my way to an early-morning men's breakfast at my church, and I didn't want to miss it-especially not now. The guys at the table were all smiling and sympathetic (although one offered the unhelpful observation: "Well, you didn't lock the car, so really, you gave him the camera as a present"). Their general encouragement was just what I needed, along with a message from the pastor on Psalm 115: "Their idols are silver and gold, made by the hands of men." And sometimes those idols are made in the shape of cameras, and sometimes in the form of a yearning for guaranteed security in an imperfect world.
My car insurance deductable is way higher than the cost of that camera, so for me it's a complete loss. Financially, that is. But for some reason, the pictures I took on Father's Day, of my children gathered around a restaurant table, of my grandchildren laughing on a trip to the park, are embedded in my memory, a million-megapixel photo album no thief can steal, and no feeling of violation can delete.
I wouldn't have known that if that guy hadn't stolen my camera last night. So for that, I guess, I ought to thank him.
I'd also be thankful if he were caught and sent to a really, really nasty jail.
My Camera, R.I.P.: Some of My Favorite Shots