Friday, February 11, 2011

Speeding Through a School Zone

I am in Richardson right now, checking on my mother’s house and trying (vainly, mostly) to get caught up on some paperwork. Decided to make a quick grocery run to get something to fix for dinner and passed through a school zone on the way. No activity. Perfectly quiet. No one out. I still slowed down, of course, at the flashing lights, as this was near the end of the school day.

On my return trip, school had just let out and the children thronged near the intersection—a stoplight that led on one side to a residential neighborhood; on the other to the school parking lot.

I slowed again, as did other vehicles. Suddenly, a car raced by me on my left, sped up as the driver got near the intersection and the light turned yellow, and then continued at that same rate through the light and past the rest of the school zone.

Fortunately, there were no children or guards on the crosswalk.

I ask, “Why?” What is so important that an extra minute or even two minutes waiting for children to get safely across can’t take priority?

Probably nothing. More than likely, the driver of the car was distracted (phone call anyone?) and the school zone lights never even registered in conscious thinking. 

Probably just distracted. Most of us are, much of the time. We still think we can multi-task, even as more and more evidence shows the futility of such activity. We think we can drive, listen to the radio, talk or even text on our smart phones, chat with our friends, search for lost items, discipline our children, and still be perfectly safe.

We can’t. There are some human limitations that can’t be overcome and this is one of them. 

I know how often I personally am distracted and start checking out of the present situation. I know when that happens, my ears lose all ability to actually hear and my eyes all ability to really see what is in front of me. Mindfulness, the opposite of distraction, takes discipline. 

In my opinion, loss of mindfulness is also loss of the delight of the moment. It is also the most likely time to do something that will bring everlasting regret.

Just my call today to all of us: pay attention. Life is right in front of us, and that life right in front of us matters a lot more than whether a text is immediately returned or a phone conversation completed.

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