Teddy Hansen’s coat looked way too big for his frail body, but the smile on his face more than compensated for his clothing. He stopped to breathe in the morning air and take in the scene around him; the sounds of the early morning traffic; the light playing on the dewy grass; and the dogs pulling sleepy owners on their morning walks. The morning fog did nothing to damper his spirits; after all he had waited for this day for three whole months.
The trip up the hill seemed to take him twice as long as it used to. Finally he arrived at his corner. He took a moment, as he did every day, to say a quick prayer for those he was charged to watch over. At long last he put on the hat and fastened his coat as the first children of the school year arrived. He blew his whistle and began the automatic hand motions that he had used to help children cross this street for over twenty years.
Suzy Bell was his first returning student to cross. Suzy offered Teddy a warm hug as she reached the middle of the street. She was followed by many students who gave him high fives and loud greetings and rushed stories of what they had done over the summer. Of course there were others that ignored him. Some even laughed at his coat or hit him on the back as they crossed behind him. But for the most part, the kids had a great deal of respect for Teddy. It was rare anymore that he even had to raise his voice to tell someone to walk.
By the time school was about to start, Teddy began feeling a little tired. His wife, Meg had been telling him that he needed to quit. He wondered for a moment if Meg was right, maybe he was getting too old to do this anymore. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed a small child nervously approach the crosswalk. He motioned for the cars to stop and turned to tell her it was clear to cross. The girl had sat down on the sidewalk and did not appear at all ready to go. “It’s OK child, you can cross now,” Teddy said.
The little girl did not move. Instead, tears began to fill her eyes. Teddy walked back towards her and motioned for the cars to go. Slowly Teddy lowered himself onto the sidewalk next to the child.
“My name is Teddy, like a bear. What is your name?”
“Allie, don’t you want to cross the street and get to school?”
Allie shook her head and looked down at the ground.
“Are you scared of starting school? It’s a pretty nice place.”
“I’m not scared of school. But I can’t cross that street.”
“Well of course you can’t! Not by yourself anyway, that is what I am here for!” Teddy gave her a big grin. “Now can we cross the street and get to school?”
Expecting that he had solved the problem, Teddy was surprised to see more tears in Allie’s eyes. She looked up at him and shook her head no. “My mommy said I have to hold her hand when I cross the street, but she died in a car accident and now I can’t hold her hand.”
Now it was Teddy’s turn to have tears in his eyes. “Your mommy sounds like she was pretty smart. But I bet she is in heaven right now watching you start school. Do you believe in Jesus, Allie?” Allie nodded. “What if your mom asked Jesus to send me to hold your hand so you could walk to school? If I am here everyday to hold your hand when you cross the street, will you come and tell me more about your mom?”
Allie looked up and studied Teddy’s face for a moment. Then she nodded and held out her hand. “I’m ready now.”
“That’s the way. Let me stop the traffic and I’ll come and get you.”
Teddy thought about the little girl the whole way home. He was certain of two things. He was going to spend another year telling kids to walk and he had better pick some flowers to help explain it to Meg.