Monday, September 20, 2010

The Crossing Guard

Every day I pass my friend A as she (mostly) cheerfully fulfills her duties as a crossing guard in front of the school. Donned in a yellow safety vest and holding a large STOP sign, she helps kids and adults safely cross a busy street. There's a crosswalk but no regular stop sign, as it is not usually a busy street. Unless it is a school day. On school days this street transforms into something ugly, with parents who really should (and do!) know better doing all kinds of unsafe and unlawful maneuvers. The bottom line really is "it's all about me and my convenience."

A. is more than a crossing guard. She's a mom. I don't think you can turn that off. She has 2 boys at the school and I wonder if that is the compelling reason to taking this minimum wage job. A. is not only a mom to her two boys; she's a mom to every hurting or crying child she meets, and the younger kids love her. Some of the upper graders have no respect for her and I cringe when I hear the stories and wonder about those kids and their lack of respect for authority, especially toward a well-meaning mom who only has their best interest at heart. Rules exist for a reason and she is employed to make sure the rules are followed. And she gets disrespect not just from unruly upper graders, but their parents too. Even worse from the parents.

Today the bell had rung, which means all students should be in their classes. As I walked to the gate I noticed A was still there and I though that maybe they changed her hours so she'd stay 5 minutes after the bell rang. It made sense, because it is when a person or a child is in a rush that they don't pay close attention to traffic or the rules. And then I saw a little girl, perhaps a first or second grader, crossing the street in tears, crying because she did not want to be late. They make a big deal about being on time at the school, and I often wonder why they punish the students for it when it is clearly (often) the grown-up's fault. (except in my house.... usually if they are late it is because they couldn't find their shoes or backpack or were still finishing late homework they SAID was finished!) If a child is tardy, they have to go to the office, get a tardy slip which usually takes a good 10 minutes before they are back in the classroom. Ten minutes of wasted time for being 20 seconds late to class!

This child was upset, and it tugged at my heart. My kids have been late too and felt the same devastation, the stigma of walking into class late. I heard A coo softly in reassuring tones, "you're not late yet! It's okay, I'll help you" and she left her post to walk with this crying girl and assist her in to her class.

I have the luxury of being a stay-at-home mom and there are some days I wish I actually had a "real" job, but most of the time I am grateful. I'm grateful that I can take my time and walk my kids to school from the house without having to enter the traffic wars and compete with the other parents dropping their children off. I'm happy that I know for sure they are on school property, and I'm thankful I am able to go on field trips and be available to my kids when they get home. (though I'm not good at making them do their homework as of late)

I understand that I'm blessed I don't have to work and it is the reality of many parents. I know it must be tough, and it makes me extra grateful to know there are folks like A. who care for all children, going above and beyond her job of making sure they are safe, to making sure they are loved and cared for. I think it is so easy to think when you are the person who is giving the care that these little things don't matter, but perhaps it is these little things that matter the most. Little unseen things like comforting a child, smiling and knowing every child by name, and just talking and listening can truly be important, and for that I'm touched by the type of person A is and thankful she works and volunteers at the school. We need more people like her. I need to be a person more like her.

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