I thought reading the news story about three siblings being killed in Indiana while getting on a school bus yesterday was bad enough. I mean, I have three daughters! The idea of them all being taken from me in one fell swoop was absolutely devastating. I thought the things I’m sure most people did.
Who doesn’t know to stop behind a school bus with its flashing lights and stop sign out?!
I might have even thought things a lot of people did not.
How must that woman who hit them feel?! This has ruined multiple family’s lives.
It was an awful tragedy. But then I saw more news this morning. I saw a news report this morning from an area near my own hometown where another child was hit getting on a stopped school bus. I wondered what the chances were of seeing this terrible type of accident happen twice in such a short period of time?! What did it say about us as a society when it became normal for children to be run over while innocently getting on the bus to go to school?
We’re in a hurry.
That’s what came to my mind.
I don’t know the specifics of these accidents, and I don’t know the story behind each driver. I would never try to stand as judge and jury for the people driving the vehicles, but I think I can safely say that they were probably in a rush. How do I know this? Because that’s what we do. That’s who we are now. That’s our societal norm. We are a hurried, harried, rushed generation always on the run from Point A to Point B. We look at the drivers of these vehicles as thoughtless, careless individuals, but I think if we’re truly honest we will see ourselves behind that wheel. I mean, we could easily have been there.
How many times had I cursed a stopped school bus on my way to work, running late? Was it really necessary for them to come to a complete stop at a railroad track?! I had never passed a stopped school bus; I knew better! But how many times had I driven less than carefully, even with my own children in the car, while I rushed to get us all somewhere on time? Could I not just as easily have hit a child while speeding through a parking lot or residential area?
I think of the man’s eyes from two days ago. I can still see the agonized, surprised, regretful, thankful look on his face as our eyes met for that brief millisecond before he sped by. He had almost killed me. Killed me and the two-year-old holding my left hand. In downtown Charleston, South Carolina, sightseeing and smiling, I had watched the red hand signal turn into a white, walking pedestrian, and I had put a foot forward to cross the street with my young family in tow. Out of nowhere the man in the SUV had come, running a red light, disregarding the pedestrian crosswalk, and even the family of five standing there to walk across. I don’t know how we didn’t get hit. Maybe I stopped just in time. Maybe it was my husband saying urgently, “watch out,” or perhaps it was the hand of God. I don’t know, but I’ll tell you what it wasn’t. It wasn’t the man swerving or slowing. When I saw the look of terror on his face I knew he had not meant to run the light or almost kill my toddler. He had been in a hurry to get wherever he was going, and his not meaning to do it would mean very little had he hit us.
Let’s face it. We see stories of children being hit by cars back to back, one day after the other, even within the supposed safety of a school bus boarding, because our world has changed. It’s hit the fast-forward button, yet the limitations of humanness remain. We believe we can beat the limits of time, but our bodies still fall victim to the reality of mistakes and their consequences.
We live in a world of high-speed Internet, Walmart grocery pickup, and Amazon Prime. We don’t have to wait for standard shipping, checkout lanes, or even a limited web connection. Nothing can slow us down! Except, perhaps, the people around us.
We immediately honk at the driver ahead of us at the red light.
How dare they wait 0.01 seconds before they accelerate forward?!
We curse the audacity of the old lady going the speed limit on a one lane, curvy road.
How dare she slow us down?!
Because what we’ve really become is a selfish society. We are number one, and our needs exceed those of anyone else. Our value resides above the rest. Why else would we normalize putting other lives in danger when we drive reckless speeds, pass on a double line, text while driving, even look down at our phone for half a second, run a red light, or God forbid, pass a stopped school bus. Who are we to judge anyone when we too are guilty of at least one or two of the above?
A month ago I was leaving Walmart with my 5-year-old. We were laughing together, smiling at the joy of our day together, and soaking in the happiness of the warm sunshine as we walked outside to head home for whatever fun adventure we had in mind. It was almost cut short in an instant. I grabbed my 5-year-old daughter’s hand and jerked her back quickly, my heart racing, about to cry. I watched the man keep driving, and I wondered if he realized he had almost ended the life of a mother with two other girls and a loving husband waiting at home. Did he even see the young, expectant light of a life in my child that he had almost snuffed out before it had even really begun? Would his rage have been worthwhile had she died?
Moments before I had seen him from the corner of my eye. A car had stopped suddenly in the pedestrian crosswalk right in front of the entry and exit doors of the store. In his hurry to get wherever he was going he felt personally offended by this stopped driver. He shook his fist in anger at the driver. He cursed him through his open window. And as he passed the stopped car, waving his pointed finger, glaring with anger, and shouting expletives, he never took his eye from his object of rage, the other driver. He also never placed it where it should be. Directly in front of him. Where he was driving forward quickly. Where innocent pedestrians crossed in supposed safety, protected by laws such as “right of way.”
He almost killed a mother and child that day because someone cost him approximately five seconds out of his precious day. Are five seconds worth ending a life? Are they worth thirty years in prison? Kinda puts things in perspective.
So what does this say about the world we live in, the world we have allowed ourselves to become a part of? We have sadly become a selfish society driven by our precious time rather than the sanctity of human life beyond our own. And if you think you’re better than the people who hit these kids the past couple of days, you’re sadly mistaken. We are all the driver of those vehicles. As much as we don’t want to admit it, we are all one look down at our phone away from hitting a child. We are all one regrettable Road Rage moment away from taking a mother away from her family. We are all one speeding incident away from accidentally running a stop sign and hitting someone’s husband and father. We run late, run recklessly, and run selfishly throughout each and every day, and until we slow down we are simply perpetuating this rushed society that births people who can’t stop for a school bus picking up innocent children.
So why are we running late? Why are we so rushed? What started this lifestyle of hurry? I think a lot of it is this normalcy we’ve developed of putting too much on our plates. We stay up late trying to meet our multiple responsibilities we deem so important, we get up late, exhausted from the overtime we work, or the numerous extra plates we add to our already spinning pile. We don’t even know how to exist in slowness anymore. We’ve forgotten how to stop and smell the roses. We assume being five minutes late for that hair appointment is worth whatever risks we partake in to get there. We’re a society chained to a time clock and whipped to row faster by the evil master of materialism. Sound far-fetched or dramatic? Ask yourself next time where you’re rushing to and why? If it’s not worth taking a 9-year-old girl and two 6-year-old boys lives’ then lessen the weight you’re placing on the accelerator.
So what do multiple children being hit by vehicles while boarding a school bus tell us about the world we live in?
I think it says, slow down.
Stop being so focused on self.
Start looking around you.
Think of others.
Reprioritize your life.
Smell the roses.
Loosen the reign of your tight schedule.
Let go of rage.
And save a life.