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By LEON YOUNGBLOOD
If there are any school crossing guards anywhere in LeFlore County, I do not know where they are. I did find one out of state, however, and we had an interesting conversation, part of which is presented here:
“I’ve been a crossing guard,” Mr. Mac told me, “for six years, now. It’s a good job for retirees who can handle extremes in the weather and who have strong bladders.”
“I’ve been a crossing guard myself,” I answered. “It was a volunteer position in an elementary school parking lot with a 40-minute shift, and seemed to accomplish little more than making parents mad at me.”
“I know what you mean,” Mac laughed. “My partner and I are at a four-way intersection regulated by traffic lights, and we don’t cross that many kids. It’s pretty easy. We cross a half-dozen in the morning shift, a dozen-and-a-half the afternoon shift, and this year we’ve got great kids. Half a block west, they cross over a hundred kids. A half-block south, the guard works by his self and crosses over two hundred. They’re in school zones, but they don’t have traffic lights.
I knew. I asked, “What kind of neighborhood do you work in?”
“Man, it’s a nice neighborhood. It’s relatively new, the homes start at $200,000—they’re pretty close together, though. They’re good people there, too, and a lot are minorities.”
“Yeah, but they’re good people. Last Christmas an Asian girl brought me and my partner gift bags with little goodies and cards. In the cards was a hundred-dollar bill! Our boss said it was nice to work in a ritzy neighborhood. That had never happened before.”
“Did you know the girl?”
“No, we had never seen her before. Most of the kids are black, but we’ve met Muslims, Hindus, Hispanic, in our little spot. The students are mostly middle-school, but we meet a lot of adult joggers and walkers, too.
“I treat my job like a ministry. I address the kids as ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’, regardless of their age. I figure if I show respect, it will eventually have some kind of influence. And you know, a couple of the black girls will usually say, ‘Have a blessed day.’ None of the white kids do, but these girls do, and I like that kind of greeting.
“And there’s a new young man who for a week would ride by on his bicycle and say, ‘God bless you.’ Finally, I called him down. I think I scared him until I told him I just wanted him to know I appreciated him telling me, ‘God bless you,’ when he crossed. I told him it was wonderful to hear, and his blessing made me a better person! When he says, ‘God bless you,’ as far as I’m concerned, that makes us brothers! Well—he got off his bike and hugged me. His timidness disappeared, too, and he says ‘God bless you’ boldly, now.
“There are three Christian men—black men—who walk three miles every morning. We have greeted each other, we have hugged each other, and they make going to work worthwhile. It’s amazing the difference God makes!
“Yes, friend, black lives matter. At least these lives matter to me. And when this kid is in his thirties, I hope he will remember the fat old white man who called him brother.”
Then Mr Mac asked me if I am a Christian. I assured him, he could call me “brother,” and, yes—it’s amazing the difference God makes!