Today is graduation at U of D here in Newark, which I totally got messed up. I was sure that graduation day was last weekend, so it didn't even dawn on me not to drive over to California Tortilla on Main Street to buy my favorite salad for lunch.
As I was driving down Main Street to get home, it became painfully obvious to me how much more chaotic and dangerous Main Street actually is when the pedestrians are not primarily college students. On graduation day (as well as visitors day), the town is flooded with parents and siblings who have no idea how to navigate the town successfully and safely as a pedestrian.
Parents... siblings... non-city residents... are rather clueless and therefore very dangerous walking about the town on days like today. Essentially, we have a free for all going on which means at least one thing can be guaranteed for drivers: GRIDLOCK.
What crosswalk? We can just jaywalk, right??
What traffic signal device? Those things aren't really for pedestrians are they?
What sidewalk? Sidewalks are for decoration, right? Clearly, they are not supposed to actually perform a function are they?
Nope. "Pedestrians Have the Right of Way!" Just ask any of the violators of the above. That's what the law states. So, there you have it. (Read: You can mow me down, but as a pedestrian I was 100% in the right!)
To an outsider watching students during the semester navigate the city and interact with the traffic, pedestrian movement tends to look somewhat arbitrary. In fact, a number of friends and family members who visit regularly comment with frustration that students seem to be so confident moving about so freely, while such high volumes of traffic flow all about them. Yet, there is very rarely a deluge of chaos during the semester or a pedestrian injury (except perhaps at 3:00 am Saturday mornings, but that's another story).
After the first week of their freshman classes, most college students have been shown or have figured out how to use the crosswalks properly, where to cross busy roadways safely, and how to navigate busy intersections successfully. The norms and rules for getting around and co-existing with thousands of two-ton projectiles are firmly fixed for most students. Crosswalks are the designated free crossing zones, so they don't jaywalk.Sidewalks are protected walking areas, free from bikes, skateboards, and most importantly motor vehicles. And traffic signal devices provide reliable crossing cover for treacherous intersections.
Not so much by deliberate choice as by a desire to survive, students develop a complex system of interpreting the interplay of ALL the legal requirements in order to live safely and harmoniously.
This is my key point: How often do we take the letter of a particular aspect of the law and make everything else subservient to it? In this case, I used "The Pedestrian Has the Right of Way" to illustate my point, but I could just as well have used something from the moral law or some sort of social justice mandate to make the illustration.
So often, we tend to elevate a particular aspect of the law, typically one that favors us somehow, and make other aspects of God's law subservient to it. I know I do. If we go to the analogous extreme that the pedestrian example does, we actually turn the law on its head and make it our own personal right! I know I do this, too.
Instead, shouldn't we ask ourselves how can we better obey the spirit of the law by exhibiting our love for our Savior and neighbor?
Here are a few ideas for pedestrians, drivers, me (and anyone else interested) toward that end:
- cultivate a desire to love and obey all of the the law (not just the parts we agree with)
- make a decision whenever we get behind the wheel to love and respect our neighbor as ourselves (instead of making our desires more important than theirs).
- and love the Lord thy God with ALL of ourselves - heart, mind, and soul. (understanding that the city of God is much bigger than our own present crosswalk.)