Opening Our House to Strangers

April 14, 2017 is the fourth anniversary of one of the scarier, more intense moments of my time living in Chancellot.

As a house, we believed in the verse in the Bible where Jesus said, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” We might have even been a little scared by it. If what we did for others was what we did for Jesus, then we were at risk of excluding Jesus from our community if we didn’t let everyone in—so we kept the door unlocked at all hours. “Don’t knock, just come in,” we told our friends. They would come in and watch Netflix or basketball games, play Nintendo 64 or cook breakfast. It was a wonderful way to keep our house from becoming a clique, because we loved spending time with each other but we didn’t want to shut out people who didn’t live in the house. Even our neighbors in the halfway house began to come over and visit. One of those guys would often ask us for money. Instead of offering him cash, we’d offer him a ride, or invite him in to eat dinner with us. After a couple offers, I finally got him hooked on my gourmet mac ‘n’ cheese. He asked to take a bowl home with him. Things got complicated when our friends from the halfway house would try stealing our stuff. Once, we caught a guy trying to sneak an Xbox controller out the door. But we believe that God gave us everything even though we had nothing to give him back, and so we kept our doors unlocked and kept inviting them to eat and play video games with us.

Until April 14, 2013. We had been living in Chancellot for two years and had added some new people to the house after grabbing the side of the duplex Jed used to live in. One of those new members was Elliot, who quickly became good friends with Caleb, if not mainly because of their shared penchant for sleeping at odd hours. At three in the morning they were walking back to the house after a late-night run to the Dunkin’ Donuts on the Corner. Both of them have extremely quirky humor, perhaps as quirky as their sleep schedules, so they were laughing riotously as they came to the door of the apartment. Caleb stopped laughing, finding himself frustrated because someone had borrowed his laptop and left it in a random backpack outside the house. Grabbing it, he went into the house with Elliot close behind. Immediately they were struck by the thick smell of tobacco permeating the house. Who was smoking indoors? Elliot and Caleb wasted no more than a split-second on this thought because their eyes met with the mess in the living room: another backpack stuffed with some more electronics, this time not just a laptop but a random selection. We were being robbed and the people doing it were probably still here. Elliot began screaming. “WHO THE <expletive redacted> IS IN OUR HOUSE?” Travis was sleeping in his room when he was awoken by the screams. He opened his eyes just in time to see someone steal out of the room. Caleb grabbed the first thing he could find to defend himself: a metal spatula for grilling meat. Elliot was clutching his can of Mace with a death-grip. He carried it because he often walked home alone from work after getting his paycheck and he knew co-workers that had been jumped. Caleb and Elliot heard the intruder run from Travis’ room into Caleb’s room, which he shared with Ephraim. Ryan, awoken by the shouting, called down the stairs to Caleb. “You guys need to come up here. There’s someone in your room.”

Together, they moved up the stairs, where Ryan joined them. The three of them marched in military column into the room where the intruder was hiding. “There are people in the bathroom!” Ephraim hissed. So, there was more than just one…Ephraim was sheltered from detection by the loft bed, which he was sleeping in when the intruders came into the room. “GET THE <expletive redacted> OUT OF OUR HOUSE!” the trio shouted. The people in the bathroom began scuffling. Click. The door unlocked and creaked open slowly. Two intruders crept out and began walking towards the doorway that Caleb, Ryan, and Elliot were standing in. One was black and one was white, both surprisingly young, probably the same age as the people living in the house they were robbing. Walking closer, they eventually burst into a run trying to get past my housemates. Caleb grabbed one’s sleeve but promptly let it go after an image of the intruder slicing his wrist open with a knife popped into his head. Elliot turned and pursued him with his Mace and sprayed it at him as he bolted down the stairs. After hitting the burglar with a burst of the stuff, he ran into the very same cloud of Mace that he had just dispensed and his eyes began to burn. That intruder got away, albeit marked with a swollen face that must have burned like Hades. Ryan grabbed the other intruder and put him in a Full Nelson hold. This guy was surprisingly docile, perhaps because he was doped up on something. As Ryan held him there, Caleb called the police. Later on, the guy Ryan was holding began whining. “Come on man. Treat me like a human being. Look me in the eye.” Caleb was furious and filled with adrenaline. “You broke into our house and you are asking us to show you respect?” Not much was said as they waited for the police to come. After so much happened so quickly, the room felt a little awkward.

Finally, the police showed up. A lady cop came up the stairs and began questioning the burglar. “This is the only thing I took!” he protested as he held a Kindle up in the air. Some defense. During this conversation, Ryan heard some more rustling. “I think there’s another person in the bathroom,” he said. No one paid much attention. BANG—outside a loud crashing noise. There was a third intruder and he had jumped out of the second story bathroom window onto the hood of Ryan’s car below. Elliot was downstairs when this happened and he pepper-sprayed the guy, this time making sure not to accidentally get himself. This guy took off, though disoriented from the blast of Mace to the face, causing him to slam into Sam’s car on his way. The police officer took Ryan, Caleb, and Elliot through the house to document missing items. Eventually they got back to Caleb and Ephraim’s room and kicked down the bathroom door, which had been locked. Inside they found a can of Mace, and a butcher knife that one of the intruders had taken from the kitchen. Had they tried to enter the bathroom earlier, they very well could have been stabbed. They got no sleep that night. In the morning, the rest of us were informed about what had happened. Later investigation revealed that an additional intruder—making it a four-man job—had been posted outside the house when Caleb and Elliot arrived, likely the owner of the backpack containing Caleb’s laptop. We had a house meeting and agreed to close the blinds and lock the doors after midnight or if no one was in the house.

Written by John Shelton