Last Sunday morning I stood on the corner of Sepulveda and Skirball Drive. Ten families with children of all ages in tow and I stood at the red light, eager to get to Milk and Bookies. (The glory of that charity event held this year at the Skirball is for another blog.) There were no cars anywhere in sight. Not a one as far as the eye could see. Yet everyone stood there, waiting for the light to change. Good!
I have been trying to process Julia Siegler’s tragic death all week long. Julia, who ran to catch her bus, crossing against the red light on Sunset, thought she could make it. Julia’s horrible death was no one’s fault. There is no one to blame, much as everyone tried to point a finger. It was an accident. Julia could have been killed in a cross walk even if the light had been green. The fact is, she ran for it, against a red light. And what we know is that often kids just don’t think. That’s the long and short of it.
How many parents make a run for it, cross when the light is red, roll through the stop sign (“the California stop”), jay walk? Lots of us do. And we do it when our kids are in the car, in a stroller, or hurrying right along with us. When I was a school director, I went out of my mind when parents made a run for it, jaywalking right across the perpetually trafficky Barrington Avenue at Olympic Boulevard, nursery school child in tow. Are you kidding?
Every time we hurry through a yellow light turning red, roll through a stop, cross on a red, our children are watching. And what is the message? It’s okay…go for it! We’ll be fine.
What’s the hurry, I ask you. What’s the worst that can happen? You’ll be late. Okay, you’ll be late. Next time you’ll leave a little earlier. Well, I think in Julia’s death we know only too well what the worst is. It happened.
It’s time to slow down. Hurrying is enemy. Not only does it often undermine whatever we are trying to accomplish (C’mon. Hurry ! Hurry! We’re going to be late!), as your child slows to a snail’s pace, spikes growing out of the soles of his shoes, adhering him to the earth, but it puts us at risk. Hurrying takes our attention away from the business at hand. If you are rushing to make the light, are you really thinking about all the possible hazards?
There are no guarantees. But maybe if we parents make it a habit to walk to the corner crosswalk, to wait for the light to turn green, to slow down, fate won’t be tempted. If it isn’t even an option then maybe, just maybe our kids will practice the same, never even considering to go against a red light.
There will be times when we need our kids to speed it up. But to quote the great John Wooden, “Be quick, but don’t hurry.” Instead, hurry up and slow down. If not for your sake, then for your children’s.