66,000 Crossing Guards

   

A few days ago I was sitting with a friend. “If you look at the world,” he said, “it seems to be unraveling.” There was the usual bloodshed in the Middle East, and then rival biker clans in Waco, Texas had come to blows, which escalated to chains, clubs and knives, finally to guns. Nine people were dead. “How can people do this?” he sighed. I shared his frustration.

A little later that day I was driving across town and got behind a school bus. I was trying to get to the train station, so I was slightly annoyed. This bus was stopping every quarter mile. But as I watched the scene over and over, I had to smile. Here was a beautiful social ritual. Mothers and fathers watched their children from the front door to be sure they got safely on the bus. One father came carrying something—a school project?—which he loaded onto the bus with his son, then stood back and waved. Meanwhile, traffic in both directions stopped. Just to be extra careful. Just in case some kid would bolt into the street.

A few blocks later I saw a crossing guard. An ordinary man in a yellow reflector vest who walked into the road and raised his hand against a wall of surging vehicles in both directions, creating a safe passage for three little children to cross. I imagined this scene all across the country. (It turns out there are over 66,000 crossing guards like that in America.)

William James said this: “My experience is what I agree to attend to. Only those items which I notice shape my mind.”

Everything Has Already Happened

We are all pro-choice. The “freedom to choose” is among the most sacred tenets of our culture. If something offers people “more choice” in some matter (Which television program will I watch? Which yogurt will I buy? What gender shall my baby be?), it’s pretty much an assumed blessing. So it caught my attention Sunday…

I Have an Appointment with April

A week ago Pam and I went out into the church grounds and clipped tall branches of brilliant yellow forsythia. We were hosting a dinner at the rectory, and we wanted to brighten the house with flowers—without spending all that money. There’s a bank of forsythia running fifty feet along the church driveway, a riot…

The Power of the Act

Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “The act teaches you the meaning of the act.” This is pure wisdom, but we have mostly counseled its reverse. We have tried to teach people the meaning first to see if we might coax them into the act. If we taught people to believe that God calls us to love…

Letting Beliefs Go

This morning I read this: A broad group of scholars is beginning to demonstrate that religious belief and factual belief are indeed different kinds of mental creatures. First of all, they have noticed that the very language people use changes when they talk about religious beings, and the changes mean that they think about their…