We live on a busy street in LA, there’s a cross walk that is directly across the street from the balcony that I can see as I type this. I wouldn’t say it’s uncommon for a car not to see a pedestrian as it comes around a blind corner and have to stop abruptly or not stop at all as it completely ignores a pedestrian trying to cross.
Yesterday morning, I was startled by a shriek that I won’t soon forget. In fact in my life I’ve only heard one ‘shriek’ worse than that, that I’ll never forget. The sound of someone that feels their life is in immediate danger is something extra-ordinary (not extraordinary in a good way). It’s disturbing to say the least. And I’m not able to call it a scream because a scream doesn’t come close to a shriek.
As I look up across the road towards the shriek, a car is inches from a lady in a bright pink jacket and her 2 medium to large sized fluffy dogs. The car clearly slammed on his breaks, she shrieked and he was so close she actually smacked her hand in fear on the top of his hood.
She walked closer to the curb, pointed her finger in confusion and anger, and he is embarrassingly trying to apologize through hand gestures which is all I can see from the balcony.
Shortly after the car drives away, she takes a few more steps as she reaches the sidewalk and slowly collapses to her knees before she breaks down in sobbing tears on the concrete.
She tries to console her dogs who are likely confused at everything that is going on. Then manages to pull herself up to a seated position clearly distraught.
I walked down stairs, ran across a busy street filled with morning rush hour traffic to see if I can help. ‘Excuse me’ I say loudly, as I approach her, so I do not startle her anymore, having no idea what I’m going to say. I told her I saw what happened, and I asked if it was okay if I sit with her.
Clearly shaken up she agrees as she wipes tears from her face. I try to be as consoling as a stranger can be to someone that had their life flash before their eyes. She tried to call her husband but he was busy. She tried to call her daughters but they didn’t answer.
So in that moment I was her family, in that instant a perfect stranger would be there when no one else was.
I tried to make conversation as best as possible, talked about the situation, how she was doing, ‘a panic attack is all she can explain’. We talked about her dogs and her job and anything to take her mind off what just shook her mind and body to her core.
You know what startled me the most, it wasn’t the shriek, it wasn’t the immediate danger, it was when she told me the person was texting right before he slammed on his breaks. And now even a day later as I write this anger creeps into my emotions as it does it’s best to take over.
It’s not that they didn’t see her, it’s not that they were in a hurry, it’s not that she popped up out of nowhere. It was someone that was so mindless, so careless, so selfish that they couldn’t wait to answer a text until they stopped their moving vehicle.
The thing is, this happens ALL THE TIME. And I don’t know what it’s going to take for people to understand how incredibly dangerous it is to use phones in the car.
This kind lady is someone’s mother, aunt, sister and maybe if not now a grandmother hopefully later, who’s life was put into jeopardy because of a mindless act that could have easily been prevented.
So now this lady’s life will be turned upside down for at least a week. I was recently nearly hit in a crosswalk a couple months ago which I wrote about. That car didn’t come as close to me as this one did to her and that shook me up for awhile.
I didn’t feel comfortable crossing the street at all in any way for a couple weeks. Now what will she think when she takes her dogs out for a walk, or how long until she does again?
After about a 15-20 min conversation she told me she didn’t live far and that she thinks she’s ready to start walking. I asked if she wanted a ride, and she gratefully declined as she only lives a few blocks away.
I reach out to shake her hand and wish her well and she asked if she could hug me. We weren’t strangers anymore, but two human beings sharing compassion in an instant where that’s all that could be shared. We were friends that embraced not in an awkward hug but a warm squeeze, in her warm pink jacket that I won’t soon forget.
As she walked away she said, “thank you so much for coming down here and talking to me, please know that you made a difference today, and that you made the world a better place”.
A simple kind act, a gesture of decency and compassion is free and we all have it to give. I know some people thought we were crazy when we welcomed a homeless man into our home for a night of shelter; I know many of us walk on when others need a helping hand (as I have myself), but all it takes is a small act of kindness to make this world a better place.
And if I did make this world a better place at least to one person simply trying to get home, I want to try just a little more. Today in this write up. I ask you to think of your mom, aunt, grandmother, mother or father. Think of anyone that is simply trying to enjoy a walk, get home to their family, which includes other drivers on the roads trying to get to their destination.
Please stop texting while you drive. You’re putting not just your life in danger but everyone else on the road as well.