Walking on Broken Glass


A couple of weeks ago, the Munchkin and I came home and found a broken window here next to the computer desk. I surmise that the Twins got wound up—either because of the Boys or simply because they could—motored in here (a straight shot from the living room), slid across the top of the two-drawer file and slammed into the window. Nobody was hurt in the disaster.

Ordinarily I’d have insisted on this to be fixed that day or the next, and I can’t even say it’s the tight household budget that didn’t foresee new window glass that is the reason why it’s still not fixed. I blame the storm window for picking up the slack. Sort of.

Whatever the reason, though, it reminds me of a sociological idea called the broken glass theory. Law enforcement has seen this in action for millennia. The theory goes that the first sign of indifference/neglect—such as the first broken window that is left unrepaired—in a neighborhood, say, will issue an engraved invitation to people in the area to break more windows and, eventually, throw trash, indulge in graffiti, and then move on to more and severe levels of crime like drug dealers claiming it as theirs. The same broken window is fixed right away and that doesn’t occur.

A teacher friend yesterday posted on Facebook about an incident in her classroom where student reports were being presented and one boy struggled through the verbal part and then played a video clip which included extremely graphic descriptions of sodomy. The long-and-the-short of it is that the parents are blaming the teacher/school. The cowed principal is offering no consequences to this boy—who in anybody’s estimation is old enough to know better (middle school). Here’s a gigantic broken window in that school—let the unfortunate games begin. I hope my friend can cope; the rest of the school year is going to be hell.

Mary Baker Eddy wrote, “You must control evil thoughts in the first instance, or they will control you in the second.” She knew about the broken window.

My personal broken window right now seems to be my attire. I’ve been working part time at home, in addition to taking care of the Munchkin, but 18 months of being essentially unemployed has taken a toll on my routine. I get up, let the Bun out, make some tea, all the while shuffling around in the t-shirt and sweats I slept in. I’ll get busy on a job—still slouching around in the those scrubbies. Just a little thing—everybody does it, right? Then it was that the hair wasn’t seen to until (unless) I was about to walk out the door someplace. My thought has sort of been  “Why bother?”—but lazy is beginning now to snowball into an unnatural (for me) culture of sloth. I know this because I’m starting to see “stuff” that would have normally been handled and put away recently appearing for extended runs on flat surfaces like counters, tables and floors.

So my new/old routine is to get up and get dressed first thing. Neglect starts small. It’s never the drug dealers in the neighborhood first. It’s that piece of paper or cigarette butt that’s left lying on the street. It’s some random act of minor mischief that’s overlooked or somehow tolerated. In other words, it’s all of us. It’s when we forget the “us-ness” of us. Why bother? Because it’s important to US and we’re worth the effort.

And that office window here is getting fixed tomorrow.


One thought on “Walking on Broken Glass

  1. I have my own solution to the grubbies – since we often don’t leave home for a week or two, and we don’t really live in a neighborhood. My loose plain-esque dresses go over everything. Pajama pants, t-shirt, nightgown. A friend passed on some wonderful full skirts with elastic waists, the old gypsy skirts we loved as teenagers, and those and a loose sweater or one of my husband’s shirts covers a multitude of sartorial sins. My good Ohio 3 piece dresses get ironed and tucked in the closet, except for a couple of work dresses, for traveling days. The hair is brushed, pinned and covered with a kapp. Done. Bare feet don’t count. I have had to be more diligent about other things – laundry, dirty dishes – on the basis that indeed it is the “broken glass” of our otherwise tidy lives, and the last stop is an episode of “Hoarders.” Maybe I exaggerate.

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