First school lesson is for adults

It is said that confession is good for the soul. In this case, maybe it will be good for all the children who will be walking and riding bikes to school in the days to come, too.

Last week I had the opportunity to spend time with Benjamin Jablonski, 3, and his family as I gathered information for a story about child pedestrian safety that appears in the Back to School section of this issue of The Catholic Post. Last year Ben was seriously injured when he pulled away from his grandfather outside the Eureka Community Nursery School and ran into the path of an oncoming pickup truck. Taken into surgery immediately upon arriving at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, Ben was hospitalized for 12 days. The trauma surgeon said that if Ben had been an adult, the risk of mortality would have been about 98 percent.

That’s hard to believe now, as he runs and plays with his big brother, Andrew. He doesn’t seem to have any developmental delays, but his parents, Frank and Lisa Jablonski, continue to keep a close watch on him. It’s hard not to. His spirit and energy are infectious.

Seeing Ben’s smiling face and hearing his parents plead for motorists to slow down and be attentive to what’s happening in school zones made me think. How often had I grumbled about trying to keep my speedometer at 20 mph? And how did I react the day I got stopped for speeding through a school zone on the way to work? Not well, it pains me to admit now. I told myself that no one got hurt and it wasn’t like I was talking on my cell phone or applying make-up or eating breakfast — many of the things that get drivers into trouble on a daily basis. I was simply thinking of what needed to be done when I got to work. That one moment of distraction was all it took for a police officer to pull me over and he was right to do so.

In addition to having the humbling experience of going to court, I paid a hefty fine. Lisa Jablonski would argue that it should have been more and she’s right. She would also argue that flashing lights are needed at every school crosswalk as a way of slowing people down and making them think.

And even though he isn’t asking for it, Ben’s story demands that we think of our young friends and family members who depend on us to keep them safe even when they aren’t thinking about their own safety — especially when they aren’t thinking about their own safety.

As I look back now, I thank God that no one was hurt on that August day as I drove to work, because it could have happened so easily. Perhaps the first lesson of this school year needs to be learned by those of us who will not be sitting in a classroom. Safety first. — Jennifer Willems, assistant editor

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