I live just off a street that has seen better days.
About 25 years ago, maybe a little more, it was a street that saw the usual suburban activities: lots of kids playing on front lawns, dogs being walked, cats sprawled on front porches enjoying the sunlight, homeowners tending to flowerbeds. These days, many of those houses are the same — frozen in time — but there are a couple of questionable ones that the cops often visit. My crime-mapping app tells me there have been a few drug-related situations, which might explain the occasional helicopter shockingly close by, complete with its spotlight turning the night into day whenever it’s overhead in the evenings. Doesn’t do much to make a girl living alone feel the safest, but I grew up here so there’s something about that which makes me — for better or for worse — feel slightly invincible.
When I was in elementary school, my bedtime was 8 o’clock — maybe 8:30 if something educational or worthwhile was on TV. Last weekend I drove down said questionable street around 10pm and a gaggle of kids — all around 7-10 years of age — were playing in it, yelling and getting in the way of cars as they tried to pass by. (Shouldn’t they be in bed at that hour…? Where are their parents…?) As I tried to make it to my cul-de-sac, they lifted their skateboards and pretended like they were about to take a swing at my car. For the record, that would be an unwise move on anyone’s part.
They were, of course, unruly kids being unruly kids, and didn’t do any damage. As an SUV was approaching me and getting ready to turn onto my street, they saw me pause to let the other driver go first. But in their minds, I was stopping the car because I wasn’t amused by their antics. I think they thought I was going to come after them, because they scattered like leaves on a windy fall day, dropping their skateboards without hesitation on the sidewalk.
I followed the SUV onto my street and that was that. Clearly I didn’t go after the kids (what was there to go after, anyway?), and I’m sure they resumed their activities a few short seconds later.
What’s funny about these kids is that I often see them during the day when I’m out and about running errands on the weekends. There are no skateboards being swung high in the air and no antics that inspire me to creep by them at a stalker-ish 5 mph, lest I need to slam on the brakes quickly. The light of day reveals exactly who they are, and their identity is clear — yet apparently they forget that if they’re “playing” in front of the same house during the evenings, not even the dark of night will fool anyone. We know who they are, and we have them figured out. To them, however, there is safety in numbers and the cover of darkness makes them impervious to responsibility, to being caught.
As humans, we’re sometimes be tempted to do things if we know we have a ready mask that hides us from the rest of the world or a little darkness to cover up our actions. But when the light of day comes and someone is there to watch us — only us, and without the support of anyone else — we may act differently: more trustworthy, more genuine, more angelic. It may be over something relatively small, or it might not. Regardless, I am thankful for the light those kids brought to a human truth and the need to act, however hard it might be at times, as though our movements and intentions are always illuminated for all to see.