Slow Crossing

Illustration by Rebecca Shapiro

“…acquire a friend for yourself…” (Ethics of Our Fathers, 1:6)

With bags hanging from her walker, I watched the lady next to me take a step into the road. We’d waited side by side as the light changed, and now, she began her (slow) charge across the street. The crossing guard several paces away, ushering other pedestrians along, sent a smile to the lady with the walker. 

Everyone else had made it to the sidewalk, but my “walker friend” was only midway there. I felt a touch of anxiety, knowing the light would soon change. I wondered what the crossing guard would do: Hold up traffic? Grow impatient?

Neither. “It’s a lovely day out, isn’t it?” he remarked. True, the sun had made a guest appearance. “We all need that light today. You just take your time now. You go at your pace.”

Maybe we all are crossing guards in life.

I marveled at the scene as I turned the corner. It would have been easy to pay attention to all that was pushing time forward—other rushing pedestrians, the traffic light countdown or the cars waiting to move. But the crossing guard had one goal in mind—to put this lady at ease.

Maybe the “STOP” sign in his hand, and the reflective vest, gave him the power to ignore those cues; there is something liberating about a clearly delineated job. You see, he had crystal clear clarity about his mandate in that moment. When we know who we are sent to comfort, or what our main focus ought to be, we can execute our task with laser precision.

Maybe we all are crossing guards in life. I’m not suggesting bright orange vests for everyone, rather just to see ourselves as clearing the way for the people around us—attuning to their pace, their needs and the specific way they need our help.

The lady with the walker made it across the street just fine. She thanked the crossing guard and flashed a smile. What had she needed on her way? Someone to see her unique struggle as a strength, someone who could welcome her pace.

This can be challenging when it comes to our lives. We get caught up in our time-agendas, our ways of forcing a matter or timing an event. Try getting a group ready for a photo or a toddler into a snow suit, and you know what I mean—try as we might, there is no forcing a timeline.

Then what can we do? Learn some crossing-guard kindness.

We all need a friend to nudge us along and reassure us when we are ambling slowly across the street of life.

We can all be that friend. We don’t need to look far to notice the people in need who cross our path. In fact, they are usually right in front of us. It’s in those moments when we can practice some crossing-guard kindness—pointing out the sun, sharing a smile and just being there as they make their way through a challenge.

Like that lady and her walker, we each have our struggles, but what can transform our experience is the gift of a friend.

I’ll be looking for you as I cross the street—I hope we will remember to share that smile.

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Ilana Kendal is a Toronto-based therapist, educator, author and mom. Whether she’s doing dishes, teaching or at work, she’s on a mission to mine Jewish wisdom for its relevance to our personal struggles. Check out her website for more about her work, and find her new book, “Choosing Up”, on Amazon.


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