February 26

I am the Crossing Guard (coo coo ca choo)

crossing guard photoOver morning coffee my sister tells me about the crossing guard she passes every morning on her drive to work. Weirdly, she has affection for him although they’ve never shared a word. She looks forward to seeing him. When he’s not there she worries.

“Why do you care?” I hope I sound curious rather than judgy.

He smiles and waves every time I turn that corner,” she says, a tad defensively. “And it’s not just me, he does that to everyone – every single person who drives by.”

I ask her what he looks like because deep down I’m shallow.

“He’s an older man. My guess is that he was once very successful. Maybe he was a banker or in insurance or something. Sort of handsome. He probably takes care of himself.”

Whoa – she’s put a lot of thought into this dude. What unearthly powers does he possess? I tell Little Sister that I don’t get it and because psychology is her bailiwick (now there’s a word I don’t use often enough), she ponders. After a long pause during which my mind wanders to my cold coffee, she says this…

“He’s a crossing guard, so he represents safety. There’s more though. He’s totally into his job – he seems to be right there in the moment, not off in the future worrying about how his investments are doing or replaying some argument in his head. He’s just so present and he brings me down to earth and we share this little moment. It’s like we’re connected and it kind of…nourishes me.”

She’s looking at me, waiting. I think she expects a cheap laugh right about now, so I deliver. “He certainly does his little job in a big way.”

But I curse my joke reflex. It’s mean-spirited and Little Sister is in such earnest. She’s telling me something important – something I want to hold onto. Like the time she said, ”You don’t go to a party, you bring the party with you.” She’s got me considering how my behaviour affects others.

And that brings me to freelancing, or as I like to think of it, surviving in the wild among the humans. (I’ll bet you thought I’d never get here.)

What the Crossing Guard understands instinctively – what we should pay heed to as freelancers – is the value of being present. Being tenaciously rooted in the moment is the only way he can protect the children he guides across the street. And really, isn’t that passionate mindfulness the secret to doing any job well?

Because he is intensely aware of the world around him, he pays attention to the humans who drive by. They matter to him because they affect his world. And because he’s a good guy, he acknowledges them and invites them in with a smile and a wave. He makes them feel valued and that’s a feeling worth coming back for.

If you want your clients to come back to your corner, be there. For them and with them.

And now, you may cross.