Leading by example

Posted in: Real life, Site updates

(The first real test for my can-update-this-blog-from-anywhere update. Fingers crossed...)

I've just come back from a ceroc weekend in a city not too far from my own. I was going to write a bit about it, but I noticed I had the stuff below on backlog. I thought I posted it before I left, but it seems I didn't. Silly me.

Well, I'll get that one out of the way first, then maybe write something about "making it big" in Palmerston North ;)

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On my way to work on Friday morning, I was walking alongside a little girl and her mother. As we approached a crossing at an intersection, the little girl pressed the button to light-up the Walk / Don't Walk lights on the opposite side of the road. The girl was then reminded by her mother to wait by her side until the "green man" (Walk light) lit up.

The traffic in either direction was non-existent at that time. I could've walked lazily across the road without encountering so much as a gust of wind, but I stood my ground. When several others who were walking behind us reached the intersection, they continued forward, jaywalking onto the path of incoming nothings. Tempted to follow them, I continued to hold my ground.

I was rooted to the footpath by a resolution I made with myself several years ago...

Ducks crossing the road
The streets can be rough

During my high school years I often walked with some of my friends after school - they had to board a train at a station which was on the way home for me. After one such walk, I said goodbye as their train was approaching and continued on to a crossing some hundred metres away where the railway barriers were down and the bells were warning of an incoming train. Across the tracks from me were a bunch of kindergarten children being held-back from the tracks both by the loud bell noises and by the instructions given to them from their kindergarten teacher.

Now the train was visibly stopped at the train station, so I thought it safe to cross the tracks. So I did, in-front of all those little kids, in obvious defiance of what their teacher just told them.

After crossing, I looked back at the train and was surprised to see my friends walking my way. Curious as to why they weren't on the train, I half-ran back across the tracks to meet them, then we all ran across the tracks again before the train had a chance to accelerate.

"Geez Em," one of my friends said, "you just crossed the tracks 3 times, and in-front of all those children! What kind of example are you setting?" he joked.

Not a good one I reckon. There I was, blatantly defying what the kindergarten teacher had just told her charges. Their little minds must've been brimming with the unfairness of the situation. I could imagine their questions to their teacher:

Little kid: "You said we shouldn't cross the tracks. Why did that guy just cross the tracks over and over?"
Teacher: "Because he's a bad person and he's going to hell."

OK, so immediately jumping to calling some stranger hell-bound might be a bit of a stretch, but it's the simpler choice when the alternative is having to explain to sub-5-year-old minds the concepts of depth perception, velocity, and perceived risk.

Still, I felt guilty. One of the last thing I want on my mind is the knowledge that some of the numbers in the next generation's pedestrian injuries/fatalities statistics may have been caused by my terrible example.

As an episode of Joan of Arcadia once taught me, "it's not enough to feel guilty. The guilt has to be accompanied by change." And so my change was this:

At designated red/green man crossings, and when children are present, to not cross the road until the green man is lit.

It's not exactly New Year's Resolution material, but it's stuck with me for years; so long now that some friends and family think I'm coy when it comes to crossing the road and are actually getting quite impatient with me.

So there I was that Friday morning on my way to work, waiting for the light to turn green and being responsible for young lives, simply by being more responsible with my own. It made me feel very grown-up.