When I was 11 years old I crashed into a tree while I was playing football, cracking the left side of my skull.
Fast forward to my 46th birthday. I had a mid-life crisis. However, I didn’t want a red sports car. Rather, I felt compelled to find more meaningful employment. I had been working for a company for 15 years, correcting mistakes. I had had enough. I quit.
My search for a job in the service of others led me to apply at a Jewish newspaper, the Salvation Army, two zoos, and three museums. They all said no.
Finally, I got a job at a nature center (I wasn’t their first choice). I also began working as a substitute teacher. However, both of those positions were part-time.
As a result, I was spending more time at home. I took my daughters to and from school. I volunteered at the library. And I spent a lot more time cleaning the house.
The more time I spent cleaning the house, the more cracks I found. There was a crack in the ceiling of my younger daughter’s room. Nearby, in the hallway, there were two cracks in the ceiling that converged around a light fixture. There were a lot of cracks over doorways. Also, there were big cracks in the basement.
These cracks bothered me. I talked to my friend Milt, a home inspector. He asked, “Are the wall cracks going up or down?”
“Up,” I said. “Is that good?”
“Yes,” Milt confirmed. “If they were going from up to down, that could be a problem. Otherwise, don’t worry about it.”
Seeking further assurance, I discussed the cracks with my friend Carl, who is a do-it-yourselfer. He said he had a crack in his ceiling, right above the bed. “The first thing in the morning and the last thing at night, I saw that crack. I thought I had fixed it, but two months later, there it was again.”
“Should I fix mine?”
“I wouldn’t worry about it,” Carl said.
But I did worry about it. I worried that all my walls were going to crack, that the basement was going to leak, that my house was going to fall down! I decided to do something about it.
I hired guys to fix the cracks in the basement, my younger daughter’s ceiling, and the hallway (the hallway cracks reappear within months).
About this time, I was accepted to a master’s program in education. Somebody wanted me, and I could work as a teacher. Also, I realized something. All my walls weren’t cracking. My basement wasn’t leaking. My house didn’t fall down.
So, this I believe. There are lots of cracks in the world that aren’t hurting anyone. There are cracks because of the weather. There are cracks from normal wear and tear. And there are cracks as a result of little boys running into trees. But the walls are fine, really. The ceiling isn’t bad. The world, with its cracked streets and sidewalks and houses, is in pretty good shape. So am I.
A funny thing about Milt. I was over at his house when I noticed—right there on a wall of his otherwise impeccable living room—a huge, gaping, black crack. He is obviously okay with that. I am, too.
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