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182http://www.beth-israel.org/blog/2014/02/RabbiLyonsBlog-02_21_2014
Rabbi Lyon's Blog - 02_21_2014
02/20/2014 07:00 AM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon
February 21, 2014

 

One morning this past week, I was waiting at the stop light at Evergreen and Chimney Rock, and listening to a CD by “Pink Martini” to jazz up my morning before a full day began as soon as I arrived at Temple. When the light turned green and before the van in front of me lurched forward, a cement truck and a large yellow school bus sped quickly through the red light coming from the left side of us. I thought to myself that that cement truck could have created a tragic scene had the van in front of me not waited a brief second. A school bus racing behind the cement truck through a red light could have created a tragic and appalling scene I don’t even want to imagine.

                In the split second those two vehicles raced through the red light, I thought about all the things that I would have done had I not been stuck behind the van. I wouldn’t have raced through the green light because in Houston you have to pause before entering the intersection; but I would have changed directions to follow the school bus. I would have tailed it long enough to get its identification numbers from the side of the bus. Then I would have made phone calls to HISD to report the reckless driver. It wouldn’t have been the first time.

                It’s difficult to imagine what is or isn’t going through the mind of a school bus driver who doesn’t slow at a yellow light and stop at a red light. The singular task, call it Job #1, is to provide safe transportation to children. In this context, “safe” is not a relative term. It needs no clarification, and making it through a red light without hitting anything doesn’t mean that the journey was safe. I would question the driver’s mental capacity let alone his/her judgment and then relieve the driver of his/her job. The unspoken expectations of a school bus driver should make us all gasp at the scene, let alone the prospect, of a school bus screaming through a red light at a small intersection with bad visibility.

                Likewise, when I leave the Temple at the end of the day and walk to my car, I look out over North Braeswood and Braes Bayou. It’s often a beautiful evening and bicycle riders and joggers are going back and forth. But, it’s also too often that a city Metro bus is tearing down the boulevard at what must surely be 50 mph, something well in excess of the 35 mph posted speed limit. I have often thought to myself what on earth does a large stretch without stop lights between Chimney Rock and Hillcroft prompt drivers to imagine? It’s not the autobahn and there’s nothing novel about a Metro bus arriving a minute or two late to its next stop.

                You and I can complain that frail human values lead to the disintegration of our society reflected in these examples, but that accomplishes little. I believe that an answer must lie in two essential human values: 1) the tasks that are assigned to us and the jobs that we do are inherently filled with meaning and duty. A school bus driver should be invested with the honor to carry our treasured children to and from school. They should be trained not only to drive safely, but also to observe in their job a sacred task and to be recognized for their achievements in those roles. There is nothing more sacred about my work than theirs if that’s what they’ve been engaged to do. Rabbi Karff has written and taught on the subject of “sacred vocation” which, when understood, applies as much to a doctor as it does to the school bus driver; and, 2) erring on the side of safety should always be a forgivable offense, even when the bus arrives late. We tend to hide human frailty as if it were a wart that no one should see; but, forgiveness is an inherently necessary part of our human relations that allow us to make harmless mistakes without fear that we can’t overcome them. Rabbi Eugene Borowitz teaches that when we observe in our work a sacred partnership, then, even when we fail, “we have the possibility for repair.”  There is nothing more important to any of us than the feeling that we are whole in our own skin, in the company of family and friends, and before God. Wholeness isn’t easy to achieve and often more difficult to maintain. If we let go of the idea that wholeness and perfection are the same things, then we can be whole as long as we are aiming to achieve, and repairing our effort to improve our aim.

                God help the children who ride the school bus of such errant drivers. God help us find our way to fuller lives through deep appreciation of our sacred vocations wrapped up in good works for good reasons. And, oh yes, slow down.

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