Ethics

For the week ending 1 July 2006 / 5 Tammuz 5766

Cross Me Please

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Question: On my way to my office in the morning I am often accosted by a child who asks to help him or her cross the street in accordance with the instructions received from the parents to cross only with adult guidance. In my hurry I am sometimes tempted to forgo actually walking with that child to the side of the street opposite to where I am going, and just settling for taking a good look to see that there is no traffic and telling the young petitioner that is safe to cross. What is the right thing to do?

Answer: While we can appreciate your need to get to your office in a hurry, we would like to call your attention to the shortcomings in simply telling “the young petitioner” that it is all clear for crossing.

When parents wisely train their children to refrain from crossing the street alone, they are trying to tell them that they are too young to rely on their own judgment and must seek the help of an adult who will serve as a surrogate parent for this crossing. When that child learns that you are not assuming the parental role of actually accompanying him across the street, but are only offering a judgment that it is safe to cross, he will be tempted in the future to also rely on his own judgment, with all that can result from such immature action.

The other problem is that the child asking you to help him cross the street is making contact with an adult world that is still unfamiliar to him. How much effort you expend in crossing him has a significant impact on his growing up.

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