Thursday, July 14, 2016

The most dangerous moment of my day

I was warned repeatedly about this before I came to Ascension, Towson, and now that I’m in my first week, I know beyond a doubt that the warnings were justified!

Before I decided to come here, I’d ask people from the congregation, “Is there anything else I should know about Ascension if I should come to serve as your pastor?” Because there always seem to be a few things in a new congregation that I wish someone had told me before I started, I had to ask.

So, what was the big cautionary tale at Ascension? “If you’re crossing the street to get to the church and the light says Walk, don’t trust it. Wait until the traffic has come to a complete stop before you go.” Really? I couldn’t imagine how crossing the street to get to the church could be such a big freakin' deal.

The church parking lot is on a very busy street that must be crossed to get to the building. Years ago, the church had a traffic light and crosswalk put in. You know, the kind where you press the button to cross the street and the sign lights up saying, Walk or Don’t Walk. Well, they were right. When the sign says, Walk, don’t you believe it!

The light turns red and the cars completely ignore it. I’m not just talking about a few that squeak on by after the light changes. I’m talking about cars that continue speeding down the street driven by people who are absolutely oblivious to the fact that there is a traffic light at all. Although it’s been there for years, they don’t see it!

This morning, I parked my car, went to the crosswalk and pushed the button. The light turned red and the Walk sign lit up for me to cross. I waited for the traffic to stop. And it didn’t. It kept going and going so that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to cross the street at all. Finally, I stepped off the curb and waved my arms pointing to the red light. Another car whizzed by. Then I started yelling at the cars. Eventually they stopped. I’ve never seen such a flagrant disregard for a traffic light in all my life.

As I crossed the street, I thought about how safe my world usually is. When I leave the house in the morning, I don’t worry about being in danger. I expect to be unharmed as I cross the street, especially when there is a traffic light on my side. But when I cross York Rd. to get to Ascension, I can never let down my guard. I can’t trust the law to keep me safe. It’s scary.

I tried to imagine what it would be like to go through every moment of every day feeling unsafe, never really sure that the law will protect me, fearing for my own life and for the lives of people I love. I realized that just a few miles away from me, people were living in such a world.

And then I turned the key in the door to the church building and I was inside, safely ensconced in an air conditioned office, checking my email. My brief ordeal crossing York Rd. was all but forgotten and I was enveloped in the comfort of my privileged life.


  1. Thankful you are safe within the church. Your blog is so insightful. It is incredibly difficult to appreciate the fears of many Americans for personal safety when "we" (me) can easily slide into protected spaces.

  2. In more genteel times, David's uncle who was a professor at Southern Seminary, then in Columbia, SC, lived across North Main St. from the school with several other professors, he would wear his clerical collar and carry a robe.. put it on and "part the waters" daily. We're told folks would time their commute just to watch his antics.

    At about that same time I was a new teacher in Columbia and I had a group of children at the State House grounds. The lights back then actually said the words "Walk, Don't Walk" instead of symbols. I began to lead my kindergarteners across the street like a mother duck. I looked back and Jamie, the kid to whom rules were only suggestions, was still on the curb. "Jamie, are you coming?" I asked. "I'm going to wait 'til it says RUN!" he replied!


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