It’s been a good week so far, and it’s only Wednesday. The criteria that we use to judge good week versus bad week varies widely. On Sunday afternoon Paul and I headed to Chapel Hill. Getting to spend time with Madison pretty much guarantees a good day for us.
This trip was a little different; it was a little longer than normal. We got to visit with Madi, spend some time with Paul’s brother, Rob, and his girlfriend, Annette. We were able to attend history class with Madi and hear a lecture by a very knowledgeable professor, and then we got to watch our daughter be inducted into a prestigious academic fraternity.
I tell you all this to emphasize that it was an impressive couple of days where any, or many things could have been the highlight, but there was one incident, that none of the others could hold a candle to, and it involves a crossing guard named Sherita.
Earlier in the day, Paul and I had been sitting on a wall right outside the student store waiting a few minutes before meeting Madison for class. Paul was checking emails on his phone, and I was people-watching.
Directly in front of us was South Road, a thoroughfare on campus. Cars were driving slowly as they approached the pedestrian crosswalk. But when students started walking across, traffic, of course, stopped. I remarked to Paul that the cars would never get a chance to move again. The kids just kept filing into the street. I was thinking I would hate to drive here at this time of day.
Little did I know, help was on the way. Shrugging on a neon yellow vest with the word TRAFFIC written on it came a petite little woman who might have been 90 pounds soaking wet. Her name was Sherita.
She walked out into the middle of the road, blew the shrillest whistle on the planet and gestured for students to hold up while she unstuck some of the backed up traffic; she blew the whistle again and motioned for the students to begin crossing the road again.
I continued to watch as she got into a rhythm of getting all traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian across safely, but then I started to notice something else. Her demeanor. She greeted almost each and every student with a smile and a “have a nice day.“ In return almost every student said hi, smiled, and thanked her. She acknowledged every comment in a completely genuine manner.
After Paul and I crossed the road and she gave us a warm “Have a nice day,” I couldn’t get over the impact she was having; I kept thinking about it as we walked down the street to the same type of crossing that was right in front of the Bell Tower.
There was a young man who was doing the same job with the same efficiency, but he was all business. He didn’t acknowledge the kids, and they didn’t speak to him. I don't know if that's his normal approach; I only saw him the one time. There was nothing to fault him on; it was a job well done. But it was not the same. It was the difference between an image in black and white and one in color.
It dawned on me later that Sherita looked happy to see each person, and don't we all need that every once in a while? It probably sounds a little crazy to say watching a crossing guard made my day. It just spelled it out to me what a profound effect we can have on people's lives without ever realizing it.