Awhile back I was walking on a sunny afternoon and came to a busy intersection in my neighborhood. The light in my direction was red, so I waited next to a 60-something man on a bike. Across from us on the opposite corner was a group of 10 to 12 people, mostly young teenagers and a few adults. Into a break of traffic, while the light in our direction was still red, the man pedaled off the curb and into the street.
His course already chosen and underway, over his shoulder he said to me, "I hate to be a bad example to all those kids over there but…."
"But you're doing it anyway," I said back.
Running a red light on a bike isn't the worst offense and probably not deserving of a millstone around one's neck for leading the young astray, but this man's recognition that he was acting as a bad example but doing it anyway was sobering. It made me think of all the little things that add up to the way that grown-ups shape the generation that follows.
The kids probably didn't even notice, but maybe they did. I probably wouldn't have noticed or thought twice about the man hurrying on his way when opportunity opened if he hadn't said something. But he did say something, and in doing so he shined the light on an exchange of personal gain and freedom against common good. He shined the light on what each person in one generation owes the generation that follows and watches.
I've walked against that light many times. Hopefully, not when kids were around, but maybe? I'm going to be more careful.