OPINION | STEVE STRAESSLE: The crosswalk


I stood at a crosswalk on Kavanaugh Boulevard with my 8-year-old daughter. Glowing yellow signs declared that pedestrians had the right of way, that cars should yield to those crossing the street on foot. That neighborhood, built in the 1920s, sees a lot of foot traffic thanks to the era of its design.

No one stopped.

Several cars sped by. A friend even honked and waved while we stood waiting parallel to those thick white lines--symbols that every teenager about to take the driving test knows: crosswalk.

I bet two dozen vehicles ran over those lines, their drivers giving no notice to those standing at the corner waiting to move.

This isn't a rant about cars not yielding to pedestrians. Shoot, I don't really blame drivers around here because Arkansas is primarily a rural state where you're more likely to see Deer Crossing than Pedestrian Crossing signs. We're just not used to noticing such things.

Maybe that's the point.

It's easy for a Southern city like Little Rock to let routine get in the way of progress. "We've always done it this way" might as well be the opening line of such a city's eulogy. When driving toward a crosswalk, we have options: Take notice, or let well-worn patterns of repetition blind us.

It's always better to recognize the life, the opportunity, the progress around us.

Take the newly reopened Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts that replaces the old Arkansas Arts Center. What a masterpiece.

I like just about any artwork that has a body of water in it--and that's the depth of my artistic knowledge. Really. Sure, I know some of the masters and have even noticed some newcomers and their edgy styles. Otherwise, I'm an imbecile who endures the school's art teacher eye-rolling when I try to discuss form or perspective.

Those of us who live in Little Rock and frequently pass by that building do so with options. The new museum can be an afterthought, a cool-looking structure decorating a corner in MacArthur Park, or we can view it as a gateway to evidence that God truly resides within man.

We can drive by that building, ignoring it to the point of dismissal, or we can pause and understand that art is the soul exploding outside the body and into the eyes and ears of those who will see and hear.

Some will say it's only for the tea-sippers in the community. Those who take time to reflect will know it's for schoolchildren, the retired, and the haggard mother and father who can feel the nerve-settling quiet that art provides.

Within those walls, Rembrandt, Picasso, and Degas whisper. The Delta marsh fills its galleries with its sweet musk. The historic grounds of MacArthur Park provide balance.

Standing at that crosswalk with my daughter, I wondered if anyone would ever slow down enough to notice. The same with the reopened art museum.

We can slow down, reflect, and appreciate this incredible addition to Little Rock.


Steve Straessle is the principal of Little Rock Catholic High School for Boys. You can reach him at sstraessle@lrchs.org. Find him on Twitter @steve_straessle. "Oh, Little Rock" appears every other Monday.


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