Be a Role Model

By Pam Henderson

Recently, my family and I visited my husband’s homeland in Bavaria, Germany. This southern German state is so picturesque that even when looking at it in person, it looks like it could only be a postcard. The villages are mostly as they were hundreds of years ago: churches with magnificent ceiling paintings telling sacred stories, hand-decorated maypoles, concrete homes with red geranium flower boxes dressing the windows and cobblestone walkways and plazas dotted with vendors selling fresh cheese, sausage and handcrafted items. Even in the small Alpine villages, the city plazas are bustling with activity. Germans walk everywhere.

An element of German life that my husband’s ancestors wouldn’t recognize is the busy intersections. While it was once horses and buggies that were scurrying through the narrow streets and alleyways, the roads are now filled with pedestrians, bicycles and tiny European cars.   

The region is bordered by the Alps, so the roads are twisting and turning around the natural features like rivers and hills, and of course the cattle crossings. The curvy roads make it nearly impossible to see when a car is coming. And, from what I could tell, Germans like to drive fast. Really fast. So that both pedestrians and cars are safe, the Bavarians religiously use a crosswalk system.

At intervals of about every two blocks or so, pedestrians can hit a button at certain marked intersections to indicate to the traffic system that a pedestrian wishes to cross. A light indicates that it is safe for pedestrians to cross and cars give them the right-of-way. While the light is still red for the stopped cars, it adds a yellow light toward the end of the STOP period – so the red and yellow traffic lights are lit simultaneously. The red/yellow light combination signals to drivers to put their car in gear before the light soon turns green. This also warns pedestrians that they should not be crossing, When the light turns green for the cars, it’s like the green flag has just been waved at the starting line of the Indianapolis 500. A pedestrian who disregards the cars’ right-of-way might just find himself kissing the front-end of a BMW.

I’ll admit that it was tempting to disregard the light and make a run for it across the street. Sometimes, we would have to walk two blocks out of our way in the blistering heat to cross the street, just to get opposite of where we started. But we didn’t disobey the pedestrian crossing.

At the pedestrian light, a sign reads, “Nur bei Grun den Kindern ein Vorbild.” My husband’s translation is, “Only cross on green. Be an example for our children.” Germans know that parents who disregard and cross against the light will be raising children who disregard and cross against the light.

That sign is relatable beyond the pedestrian crossing. Our children have a good chance of picking up so many of our bad grown-up habits. Whether it’s smoking, using drugs illegally, eating candy bars for breakfast, irresponsible drinking, throwing clothes on the floor rather than in the hamper, leaving dirty dishes in the sink or not brushing our teeth, when we do an activity again and again, it gives it credibility and credence. Even when our words are telling them otherwise, it’s the actions that our children are watching.

“Nur bei Grun den Kindern ein Vorbild” is wise advice, especially considering that it comes from a nation that serves water and orange juice in 4 oz. glasses and beer in 48 oz steins.