From Chicken Soup for the Child's Soul

Following the Rules

Don’t learn safety rules simply by accident.


It was just before dinnertime, and the smell of burning leaves filled the October air. A large crowd of people gathered across the far end of the street to watch the fall of a gigantic tree that was being taken down in my neighborhood. This was no easy task. I watched from the cement steps of my house as the tree, bound with heavy ropes and chains, was lowered to the sidewalk.

Soon, the once gigantic tree was now without limbs or leaves, and it fell safely to the ground with a muffled, “Thud!”

But the kids and grown-ups did not leave. They moved in closer to linger around this wonderful old tree. Like them, I wanted to run my hands on the tree’s bumpy bark and say good-bye, but I was only five years old and wasn’t allowed to cross the busy city street.

But as I became more sad watching the tree nearly disappear, I thought to myself, What’s the worst thing that could happen?

I didn’t see any cars coming, so I ran across the street to say good-bye to the fallen tree. After what seemed like a short while of standing around and talking with some of the people who were also sad to see the tree be cut down, a sinking feeling grew in my stomach. I realized that I had stayed too long. I am late for dinner, and I’m in trouble, I thought. Without even thinking, and without looking to see if there were any cars coming, I darted out between two parked cars and raced toward my side of the street. I barely heard the screech of tires before a car struck me down. One of my shoes flew into the gutter. The car passed over my body, and I was covered with grease, bruises, and blood.

In what seemed like only seconds since the accident happened, my father was standing above me. He leaned over and looked into my eyes as he said, “Joe— I love you, son—the ambulance is on its way.”

At the hospital, it was discovered that I was not seriously injured. While the car drove over my body, the wheels never touched me. It was a miracle I have never forgotten. I was grateful to be alive and very surprised to have only some minor bruises.

My tearful parents hugged me and reminded me that I wasn’t supposed to cross the street by myself, and that I should always look in both directions for cars before taking one step into a street. They also told me that I should use crosswalks when walking across a street. As I got older, I realized even more how not all kids are so lucky when they break safety rules.

I learned the hard way that day to respect the rules my parents set and to be more responsible. And from then on, it was obvious to me that following the rules was simply a smart thing to do.

off the      by Mark Parisi

Reprinted by permission of Off the Mark and Mark Parisi. ©1997 Mark Parisi.

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