On a recent Sunday morning--a glorious, already hot 8.30 am--my friend Sue and I rounded a bend on a street close to our homes, part of our weekly walk, and saw a man getting into a car driven by a woman. Sue and I were talking, but we both thought about this as we saw them drive away.
Are they going out for a Sunday event? I thought.
Are they going to the beach? Sue thought.
The white Camry passed us, and we just kept on moving.
But as we walked by the car they'd been parked next to--the car I'd assumed was the man's--I heard a tinkling sound, the rainfall of broken glass hitting the asphalt.
"Did they just break that?" I asked. "Did that just happen?"
Turns out, yes, it had just happened.
After I called the police and Sue rousted the poor folks to whom the car belonged--the car now missing GPS and window--I couldn't help but be amazed at humans. We do so many things that are appalling, and I suppose breaking into a car isn't among the worst, not by a long shot. In fact, it's not even close.
And I know that certain circumstances push us toward things we wouldn't normally consider. Things happen, and we decide to steal identities, break into cars and houses, rob convenience stores. We buy guns, hole up in houses, and wait for SWAT teams. We can easily fall down the rabbit hole of crime, but what about that moment before it all happens.
Is there a way to catch us before we do what we do?
I often think about a short skit that was on Sesame Street when my children were little. In the quick, animated sketch, a boy imagines walking up to another child and popping a balloon. The noise of the popped balloon scares the child, who is standing on a skateboard. The skateboard careens into a number of things, people, and about three other lives are disrupted and hurt because of the impulse of the child who had to pop the balloon. Then the child who imagines this chain of events decides to not pop the balloon and walks up to the other child and says hello instead.
That's the moment we all need, the moment before the popped balloon.