For years, I have griped and complained about the drop-off and pick-up mess at one of my local Chicago schools. Drivers often burrow against established traffic patterns. Students jump out of moving cars in the middle of intersections. Some insist on parking in the solitary traffic lane simply to collect their child ten feet from the door. Others block driveways, refusing to move even when politely asked by nearby residents.
Imagine the honking. The swearing. The chaos.
I have been a steadfast griper for a while. I point out to anyone who listens how dangerous and explosive the situation is. I write angry letters to the principal (none that I actually mail, mind you).
But I never actually offer to do anything about it.
This year, a bunch of superheroes got involved. I call them that not because they fly or are bulletproof, but rather, without any protection at all they are out there. Each and every day, you can spot them wearing their bright yellow vests while holding hand-painted posters.
Since September, these moms and dads have fought valiantly to correct a long-standing wrong. It was simply not in their nature to ignore inevitable tragedy.
And as thanks?
They have been vilified, disregarded, and taunted. Some drivers scream and curse. Some walkers mock them and dare them to call the police while openly snubbing procedures. It has made my stomach turn.
It came to a head last week when a driver backed up into a busy intersection while talking on her cell phone. Her car made contact with two young children and her response was to attack the concerned onlookers who confronted her. Kids stopped in their tracks to watch a pathetic model of adulthood, one absent of basic human decency, attempt to bully and intimidate those who only sought to protect.
Most parents have heard the famous quote attributed to Mr. Rogers:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
I have repeated that line several times to my kids over the years.
But now? The helpers are under attack. It is unacceptable.
My revised line? Look for the helpers and HELP THEM.
Today, take some time out and make sure the helpers in your neighborhood are safe. Back them up. Jot down license plates. Identify anyone who threatens those striving for good.
Demand they be held accountable.
To all my crossing guard friends, I am going retro in your honor and sending some Hillstreet Blues your way:
Please be careful out there.
The world needs you.