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.”