Faithful Living: Finding equality in a road construction zone

As I sat in my car this week to watch flaggers stop a line of cars so the needed road construction could progress, I truly understood how tough their job is. That’s because for one summer years ago I, too, was a flagger.

Many late Baby Boomers like me can relate to a childhood lived in modesty, for our parents learned from their Depression-era parents that there was honor in serving your country, working hard, encouraging your children to live bigger and bolder than the generation before, and being respectful of the people around you. When the Women’s Movement in America began talking of equal rights and opportunities, many parents envisioned a new day for their daughters. Mothers, in particular, wondered what it would be like to live and work on a more level playing field, where men and women are treated equally.

I thought about such progress on that day, now years ago, when I set down my flagging sign, momentarily took off my hard hat and asked God to repair my bruised psyche. Of the many hats I had chosen to wear in my life, wearing that bright yellow hard hat had been the most protective, yet took me to places of extreme vulnerability.

Hard hats and iridescent vests are designed to bring workers into clear view of approaching drivers and be somewhat protective, but the more time I spent flagging the more I mentally envisioned the outfit as a shield, deflecting the venom and unreasonable frustration that occasionally poured out onto me when I asked hurried drivers to slow down, stop briefly or take an alternate route.

That summer I reaped what we had sowed as a society some decades before: I and the other flaggers with whom I worked were regularly treated in the most ugly of manners as we did our best to safely control traffic around those construction sites. To my great surprise and sorrow, this included being called the worst of names and witnessing horrendous behaviors on a daily basis.

I got what I had asked for: I was treated with complete equality. While feeling sickened and disillusioned, I also got a surprising lesson from God: Isolated ideology — vacant of morality, ethics, and mores--brings people to equally low levels.

Author and therapist Michael Gurian in his book, “The Good Son: Shaping the Moral Development of Our boys and Young Men,” speaks specifically to boys when he says that a dangerous and exponentially growing number of our boys live in moral confusion, ethical numbness, moral distraction, and spiritual emptiness.” And lest you think I am unfairly picking on men, I have seen enough bad behavior from women to apply Gurian’s assertions to a more general understanding. As a society, we will not generously or graciously respond to interruptions, inconveniences and personal sacrifices without a foundation of morality and faith.

As we travel about this summer, let’s be gracious and kind. Let’s look around at the beauty that surrounds us and reflect that same beauty in our own attitudes and interactions with those around us.

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