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how important is the next minute?

September 21, 2010

As I approached the stop sign, a line of kids ran down the hill into view.

After three days of non-stop rainy downpour, September sun had the sidewalks steaming.  The middle school is around the corner, and the kids grinned as they got into their run for cross-country practice.

I stopped well back from the painted white line: I knew the column of runners would swell as they moved into the wider crosswalk, and I wanted their coaches to know they had a safe margin.

The lead coach gave me a wave as he sprinted across.

The following coach herded the stragglers, prodding them to keep up with the group.  As the back of the line approached, I inched forward – a little added incentive.

As I moved up, the side-view mirror showed the car behind me – the driver waving and gesturing out his window, his impatience clear to all.  The coach and her charges cleared the crosswalk and I rolled forward to check for cross-traffic.

Still, the driver behind me made faces and slapped his steering wheel in frustration.

Let’s be real here: the whole exchange took less than a minute.  It took me longer to write it.

But it was clearly a minute wasted for this man.  I wonder what was so critical on his schedule that he couldn’t wait one minute to keep a group of kids safer, to keep a team together, to let the needs of children guide the moment.

I suspect it was not an actual emergency –  just ingrained impatience, conditioned rushing, perpetual self-importance.  I wonder if it would have made any difference if his kid had been in the group.

I’m glad I was the driver at the front of the line of cars.  Not driving through the line of kids doesn’t make me a better person, as I’m sure the driver behind me would affirm. It was just the right thing to do.

Remembering the clear-eyed faces of the young runners, I smiled: they were what mattered.

Children matter.  Every time.

I want that to be an easier thing to remember.  For everyone.

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