Just look at that stoplight. Isn’t she a beauty? Well, maybe not so much to you, but to me this stoplight makes my heart swell with pride, because it represents victory after a hard-fought battle.
It all started about ten years ago, just before Christmas, when seven-year old Brandon, a playmate of my son’s who lived just a few doors down, was riding his scooter to our corner store. The corner store that lies just across the main road that weaves through our quiet little community. The road commuters just love to speed like crazy on, because it has no crosswalks, no streetlights, no stop signs, no traffic lights.
Brandon was the victim of a hit and run that evening. He was dragged by the car for about twenty feet. His mangled scooter lied up the road after being dragged under the car for a city block. The monster behind the wheel of that car sped away, leaving a little boy bleeding and unconscious on the side of the road.
Brandon was taken to Children’s Hospital where he lay in a coma for weeks. We neighbors took turns visiting at the hospital, and doing what we could to support his parents. We then rallied to see what we could do to prevent this from ever happening again.
My community is small, rural and unincorporated. Chickens and wild peacocks are the main source of “traffic” on our narrow country roads. We were literally the last place on the planet to get high speed internet. I was on dial-up until just a couple years ago. We aren’t worth the city’s bother to provide us with sewer or gas lines, or trash pick up. We have to source all that out ourselves.
So when we approached L.A. County Supervisor Mike Antonovich and demanded a stop sign at the intersection by our country market, we weren’t exactly treated with any kind of priority. We held a town meeting at our local chapel, and discussed our ideas with Antonovich’s deputies. The crowd shouted out their demands. We need street lights! We need a stop sign! We need peacock crossings! (Oh Chatsworth people…)
We were politely rebuffed.
Antonovich’s deputy Patty explained that the main road was too important a route for morning commuters, and they couldn’t risk traffic being slowed by a stop sign.
Well, what about a crosswalk at least? We countered.
Not necessary, they said, as you have the legal right to cross there without it.
Hmm…couldn’t risk traffic being slowed down? We had the legal right to cross there?
We townsfolk met again, and decided if the most important issue to the city was not the well being of children in a small unincorporated town, but the flow of traffic, then we’d hit them where it hurt.
We made a plan, with all of us taking rotating shifts. We would continually cross the street there, s l o w l y, from 7 to 9 am and again from 4 to 6 pm every day, nonstop, forcing cars to stop. And we would carry signs stating that a little boy laid in a coma at Children’s Hospital while the city did nothing to protect our community.
And boy, for a community of artists and cowboys and old hippies, we were diligent and organized! On the first morning we backed up traffic so far that within the hour, traffic helicopters circled overhead to investigate. What they discovered was a bunch of artists and cowboys and old hippies standing in the road with signs. Next came the news helicopters and trucks. The commuters were visibly angry, although some of them (the decent ones) cheered us on. After about a week of us legally crossing the road all day, the Supervisor’s office caved to our demands.
We didn’t get our stop sign. Instead we got a traffic light, a crosswalk, street lights, and a flashing electronic radar sign to monitor speed.
Brandon eventually recovered, but with some minor brain damage. He is now a teenager and doing pretty well.
Antonovich ended up befriending me, awarding my nonprofit with at-risk kids, and giving me the back room in his office to hold my nonprofit events and meetings.
No one has been hit by a car since. We all still love our traffic light.
And that, my friends, is how it’s done.
The moral of the story, don’t let yourself get caught up in the fact that you are David and they are Goliath, if the stone you carry in your pocket is the stone of truth. When something is worth fighting for, you must do it, no matter how daunting the task.
I needed to remind myself of this story, as we approach our trial on Monday, fighting to keep custody of our little dog. (for anyone new to this blog, you can read about it at SaveStitch.webs.com) Yesterday I was feeling pretty beat down after reading through some of the documents and statements from the “plaintiffs”, which are nothing but lies and deception. It’s astonishing to me the lows some people will stoop to. But I have this little stone in my pocket…it’s called the TRUTH. And I have faith that if I hold on tight to that, I need nothing more.