In my growing up years, my years in the seminary, and even now as a priest, I do not recall sharing a room with a particular person for an extended period of time. Perhaps, one or two nights while on retreat or during an outing.

My experience of not living with someone closely could be a deterrent to my not fully understanding the plight of some of my married counsellees, who come to me sometimes in tears because of the aggravation they feel toward their spouses who do “odd” things in the room they share. There are cases of unclosed drawers in which one spouse runs into the dark and consequently gets all bruised up. There is a case of slippers and three pairs of shoes for every occasion lying around the bedroom floor as if it were part of the floor design. Complaints about a spouse leaving clothes on the floor like a trail with whatever came off first at the beginning of the trail and the last thing out at the end of the trail. My list is endless. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that some of them sound like they are at their wits’ end and ready to give up.

Sometimes, they come to me asking for my assistance with the annulment of their marriage, or they are seriously contemplating separation. I feel like scratching my head in wonder. I think, “Do you honestly believe that those petty flaws are reason enough to dissolve a marriage for good?” Of course, I do not say this aloud, but I am really left amazed and baffled. I wonder what would happen if the issues at stake are wife beating or money matters, which are far more serious than closets left ajar and the like.

I pondered awhile and realized that, on a grander scale, it is indeed tear-jerking and horrifying! They really are not that petty. Repeated often enough and for extended periods of time, these behavior patterns can really be trying. Following the same line of thinking, imagine how many fights could be left on in public or private offices and toilets. How many faucets, broken pipes, and water hydrants could be left leaking on main roads and small tributaries? Count the number of men who use the walls of various establishments as their private toilets. We do not discount all the jeepney drivers and pedestrians who blow their noses and discard their mucous or sputum on our streets.

Why all these seemingly petty negligences? They seem like small offenses not worth anyone’s tears and frayed nerves but multiply it by at least 7 million adult dwellers of Manila alone. What are the consequences of a hundred people’s neglectful behavior on the rest of the population in terms of basic necessities and health? The figures could be staggering!

Could it be that while these “forgetful” citizens were young, nobody ever told them that “There is a right time and place for everything and that everything should be put back where you got it and finally that everyone needs to clean up his own mess? And yes, do not mess around with other people’s property.

This deserves serious thought. If we allow our young children to get away with leaving candy wrappers scattered around the living room or books left strewn all over the floor, when do you think they will learn to be responsible and clean up their own mess? When do you think Will they learn to study in their assigned corners? Psychologists say that once the child reaches the age of seven, most of his habits are already in place. How do we undo so many bad habits at 30 when these men and women become leaders, bosses, executives, or even your children’s “yayas” and your indispensable cooks?

Our rivers are dead or dying because people do not know the right place for garbage. We have not even organized our garbage collection and disposal problem. If this were in place, then people would certainly cooperate. “We are the only country in the world where a sign reads in Filipino, ‘Bawal umihi dito.” Must this be explicitly told?

When were we taught that street walls are not toilets? Who will enforce this rule? Obviously, the men who use walls as urinals did not learn their good hygiene practices at home. Why? Is it because no one bothered? Is it too petty? On the other hand, have we addressed the need for clean public toilets so that precisely this practice will stop?

If there is no order in something as basic as this, how can there be order in other areas of our lives? If all we worry about is consumption and a good time, who will clean up after ourselves, and what do we do with the accumulated mess? Why do we always think the helpers will pick up after us, or the Metro Aide, or the government should take care of that?

So let us get organized here. Let us clean up!

Jesus Our Light

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