An online dictionary defines a social contract as "an implicit agreement among people that results in the organization of society."
We live by such a compact. It's how we function. It's what binds us to pay taxes, to not run red lights, to look out for one another.
But it's hard not to wonder whether that compact is unraveling in an age consumed by distractions, self-focus and a preoccupation with doing everything in a hurry. We leave no margins for error.
On Thursday, while on my way to get coffee, I came upon a family waiting to cross Mendocino Avenue at Fourth Street at Courthouse Square. It appeared to be a mom and daughter, about 4, and a grandmother. All were finishing off smoothies.
When the light changed, the girl took a half-step forward, but her mom was still clinging to her hand — thankfully. Because at that moment, a truck gunned it to beat the light. While it may have been yellow as that truck entered the intersection, it was green for us as it raced across our path.
What's clear is all that little girl saw was green.
"That's why we wait and look both ways even when it is our turn to go," I heard the mother say after the vehicle passed.
Yes, even when it is our turn.
At 6:04 p.m. later that same day, a similar crossing occurred just a mile and a half away, but the outcome, this time, was devastating.
At the corner of Rockwell Place and West Ninth Street, a mother and her three children — a 4-year-old boy, his twin sister and their older sister — were waiting to cross West Ninth to get to Jacobs Park next to Lincoln Elementary School.