Tell it like it is

When I was six years old and in the 2nd grade, I rode home on a small private bus that my parents hired. The bus dropped me off at my grandmother’s house on St. Johns Place in Brooklyn. St. Johns is a very wide street for New York City, with two lanes on each side, not including parking lanes on both sides of the street. My grandmother’s house was almost directly in the middle of the block.

My grandmother would watch for me from the second-story window of her house each day when I would come home.

The bus driver, for whatever reason, would stop in the far right lane across the street from my grandmother’s house, and direct me to run across the middle of the street to get home each day.

One day we pulled up to the spot, and the driver let me out. It was so long ago that I couldn’t say whether he told me to go or not, but here’s what happened next. I ran out of the bus, got past the middle of the street, and was hit on the right side of my body by a Mack truck.

The truck driver saw me and hit the breaks, so by the time the truck did hit me, the force wasn’t enough to run me over. Instead, it lifted me in the air and threw me about 25 feet onto the hood of a parked car on the side of the street where my grandmother’s house was.

My grandmother watched the whole thing from her window.

I can still remember what it felt like to be hit by the truck and flung in the air. It was the luckiest of circumstances. I didn’t break a single bone. In fact, I popped up and yelled at the bus driver that he told me to cross the street, unsafely.

I don’t know if he did or not. But it was a stupid idea to have a six year old cross the middle of the street with no crosswalk or street light by himself.

At six years old, I wasn’t mature enough to own what was happening to me. I think you’d probably agree that at six years old, I’m not at fault. Where are the adults, right?

Three weeks ago, a sixteen year old climate activist named Greta Thunberg spoke at the United Nation’s Climate Action Summit. There were many unsettling things she said that I admittedly had never heard before, about the potentially irreversible course that humanity was on concerning climate change. But there was one sentence in particular that made me blink. Greta said:

“There will not be any solutions or plans presented in line with these figures here today, because these numbers are too uncomfortable. And you are still not mature enough to tell it like it is.”

A sixteen year old telling a room full of adults that they are not mature enough to tell it like it is. World-leader adults, no less.

In how many ways is this true? How often are we not mature enough to acknowledge where we have made a mistake or failed so that we can adequately resolve a problem.

In most cases, we have opportunities to correct our shortcomings. Thirty-seven years ago, I was fortunate. I never rode that bus again. Looking back on it, I wonder how that event changed that bus driver. Did he learn never to put a child in unnecessary danger in that way again? Was he mature enough to acknowledge his role in what happened, or did fear and pride enable him to carry on with the same poor decision making?

I’m no climate scientist, but I am taking Greta’s words to heart. Not just with regards to climate, but in general. I may be 43 years old with two young adult male children, but I need to continue to find the areas where I’m not mature enough to tell it like it is.

Have a grateful day.

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