A Broken Window

I like to think of myself as a peaceful, nonviolent person.  I like to believe that, in any situation, I will choose the path of nonviolence.  I read about peace and study the great teachers of nonviolence – Jesus, Gandhi, Dr, Martin Luther King Jr.  I even practice “how would I respond” scenarios in my head, hoping that I will make appropriate choices if I am ever faced with trouble.

Two weeks ago, I saw my daughter respond with peace and grace when her car window was smashed.  I kept myself calm, but it took some effort not to respond with anger and vengeance, not to let my mind turn to bitter thoughts about city living. When Emily called the police, and they took the report over the phone instead of coming to our house, it took all my resolve to stay serene.

Last night, after our delightful pre-prom party.  After exclaiming with our guests about how lovely our neighborhood is and how much we love our big, old city house.  After traveling a few blocks to our beautiful Maplewood Rose Garden and then going out to dinner with friends.  After returning home, tired and happy, we heard a loud “bang.”  It was a startlingly loud noise and we rushed outside.  A neighbor told us that some kids had thrown a rock at our window.  We found the rock on the porch.  We were so relieved that it hadn’t broken the glass.  We debated calling the police, but decided against it.  After all, they had not come when Emily’s window was actually broken.  We turned off the lights and closed the blinds, hoping that there would be nothing to attract the kids’ attention back to our house.

A few minutes later, we heard another loud “bang” followed by the sound of breaking glass.  John ran outside and I picked up the dogs and shut them in a room away from the broken glass.  In our living room, there was glass everywhere.  A rock had broken our window and storm window and blinds.  By the time John had reached the porch, there was no one around, but our neighbor pointed out a group of kids hanging out down the block and said that she had seen them throw a rock both earlier and this time.

I did not feel peaceful.  I did not want to be nonviolent.  I wanted to scream at those kids.  I wanted to march down to where they were congregating, laughing and talking, and knock their heads together.  Our son, Sam, was so sad.  He couldn’t get over wondering why anyone would do such a thing.  John was practical, calling the police and keeping an eye on the group of kids.  I was angry, mad, furious.

This experience really made me see that I have not yet arrived at being the person that I want to be.  I do want to be nonviolent, but the anger (approaching hatred) toward these preteen kids was overwhelming.  It really consumed me for a few minutes.  The good news is that I did not act on my violent feelings.  Other than a few choice words about the kids to John, I kept my reaction in check.  As I was cleaning up the glass, I let go of my desire for vengeance and my hopes that these kids would meet with the end they “deserve.”

We are lucky.  Police officers arrived and talked with us, letting us know that they would keep an eye on our house and our area for the next few days.  They drove down and talked to the group of kids hanging out down the street, the kids our neighbor saw throw the rock.  We could not make an ID, so no arrests could be made, but the police talked to the kids for a long time.  There is an emergency glass company in our neighborhood that is on call 24 hours.  We called them and the man was so calming.  He assured us that they would be here first thing in the morning to repair the windows.  Everyone was very calm and reassuring.  We covered the window and got ready for bed.

By the time we went to bed, I was back to an attitude of embracing peace and nonviolence.  I was able to think about the events of the evening and look at my reaction.  I see that I have some things to learn, but I can give myself some credit for not acting on my violent urges.  I did not scream down the street to yell at the kids.  When talking with the police officer, I did not respond with an irrational request for “justice.”  I did not allow myself to turn to urban, racist stereotypes or hateful thoughts about the people who broke our window.  I regained my perspective fairly quickly.

This morning, this bright and sunny morning, a very nice man came and fixed our window.  By noon, everything was back to normal.  I was a little nervous tonight that they would come back and break another window.  I was a little anxious about whether they were targeting us and would return.  Mostly, though, I am grateful for the lessons I have learned.  I am grateful for our wonderful neighborhood and our friendly police officers.  I am grateful for the teachers of nonviolence, who can show me a way to deal with my feelings without responding to violence with more violence. By showing me that I do not have to perpetuate a vicious, never-ending cycle.

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8 thoughts on “A Broken Window

  1. I’m sorry about your window. I commend you for not lashing out in anger when it would do no good. But… to quote the wisest man who ever lived: “to everything there is a season” – and that includes anger. Even the Good Lord got angry and acted on it when it was appropriate and drove the money-changers from the temple. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling anger when it’s appropriate.

    • Thanks, Bob. You are right, anger is appropriate sometimes. I just want to be sure not to make the situation worse by my actions. Thanks for your comment.

  2. I had my brand new iphone4 stolen from our store’s office last week and I must admit, it has taken me a long time to not start crying every time I think of it. I know it’s just a cell phone, but the fact that someone (an employee) that we have worked next to for the past 1 1/2 years would do this to ME, really hurts. We have no solid proof (the security cameras could not see what was going on) but I know who did it and my heart aches.

    • 😦 It hurts when someone we trust betrays us. It is hard to be the victim on a crime, but it must be especially difficult in your situation. At least ours was just a random act of vandalism. Luckily, we both have our families and that is what is most important.

  3. I don’t think I could be as calm as you were in that situation. I really admire you for your attitude of peace and nonviolence.

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