If you are a middle aged person such as myself, then this post’s title may have caused you to think of Robert Fulghum’s “All I Really Need to Know I Learned In Kindergarten.” And if it did because you have a battered copy of the book or have favorite stories from that text or because every time you read the poem that brought about the book’s title you nod your head, well then, we are peas in a pod. In 1989 I purchased that book of essays as fast as I could whip out my wallet. Why? Because it spoke to me. It made sense. It made me think of all the teachable moments of my life and then ponder just what I learned from them. In a word, I love Robert Fulghum.
I found myself thinking about the poem (you can read it here and I hope you will) last night as Mister Soandso, Biggest, and I discussed the Democratic National Convention. I fell asleep thinking about how much better the world would be if, as Fulghum proposes, everyone including all nations remembers those simple life lessons taught in kindergarten. I think most folks, regardless of national identity or political persuasion were taught these tenets of basic human decency, and yet it seems like times can keep those same folks from remembering what they learned.
This morning was a slow morning for me. I recently returned to weight lifting and have a strained quad to show for it. I walk like I have advanced arthritis in both knees or spent a significant amount of time getting to the bottom of a bottle of rot-gut whiskey. In other words, I’m walking pretty slowly with a bit of a lurch every now and then. But I know that keeping the muscles moving is important plus my dog (Charlie) has been giving me the stink-eye something fierce of late. So off we slowly meandered for a 2 mile walk.
On our way back I was waiting at the light for the walk sign. Normally I’m running when I reach this intersection. But not today. So I stood there, patiently waiting through an entire light cycle so I could slowly lurch and limp across with the light. As the light prepared to change, I noticed an SUV approaching the intersection from the east. As the light changed and my dog and I started across the intersection, I kept an eye on the SUV to be sure it would stop in time. Out of the corner of my left eye, I noticed the car that had waited to turn east at the intersection the entire time I did started to make her turn.
As a runner and walker, I’m 100% in the category of “cautious”. I don’t walk/run in “my own little world” without paying attention to traffic. I am simply too worried to ever be that pedestrian. I have many, many times thought about what I would do if a car entered my “space” and endangered my safety. I always assumed I would kick-it in gear and run fast enough to get out of the way.
But today, as I checked again that the red SUV was indeed coming to a stop, the screech of tires on my left caused me to freeze. Not for long, but I stopped, the shiny grill rocking a mere foot away as the driver slammed on her previously speeding-up tires.
It very nearly was the perfect storm with my dog and I at its epicenter.
We kept going, she shouted an apology out her window and the driver in the worrisome SUV watched me limp across the remainder of the crosswalk while shaking his head.
About 20 feet later, Charlie pulled against his leash and looked up at me. I leaned down to pet him and found he was shaking. I guess he realized we had come within a foot of being hit as well. As I ruffled his ears I found myself telling him that I’d be more careful next time as if I’d done something wrong. Which I hadn’t. I was in the right of way. But I had been paralyzed by fear for a moment which I never thought I’d do.
I always thought I knew better than to be so fearful that my fear became my decision-maker instead of my logic. But this morning I learned that was a flawed logic on my part.
I have to admit that I hope my fellow citizens remember what their kindergarten teachers taught them all those years ago. Especially this November when we decide what this nation should be like for every kindergartner who calls this nation home.