By Carol Masshardt
What does it take to serve as a crossing guard at one of the most chaotic and dangerous intersections in South Boston? You may know the rotary near St. Monica’s Church that connects Old Colony Ave., Prebble St. and Columbia Rd., but perhaps not as well as Belinda Scott who firmly and lovingly manages five directions of traffic, a rotary that could elicit aggression in a lamb, and pedestrians, carriages, bikes, and wheelchairs. It is the epitome of an urban streetscape. It is here that she has navigated since 2017, interrupted by some pandemic gaps, with care, humor, confidence and grace.
Guiding people is not new to Belinda, now in her sixth decade. Mother of children, biological, adopted and fostered, she now has with husband Thomas, nineteen grandchildren and a team of great grands. The job has become an extension of her caring network.
“I love kids and I get to know them. They come back and let me know they are in high school or college, and I encourage them. I tell them ‘I know you can do it’ when they are taking the MCAS exam,” she said.
“Oh weather. I hate to be cold, but I wear lots of layers,” she said smiling and ducking traffic.
“My job is to try to get people not to run over anyone,” she said, as if it didn’t require mental and physical energy. “I get it, people driving are tired, and they want to get where they are going, and they don’t want to take even a minute. They step on the gas when they should be on the brake,” she said.
Originally from Alabama, she moved with her family to Dorchester at age 12 and remembers well the transition to city life and uses the experience daily. She went on to graduate from high school, complete the EMT program at Northeastern University and also worked as a calibration technician, but it is something about this crossing guard position that seems ordained.
“My great-grandmother lived to ninety-nine and half, and she always said,’ If I can help someone today my living is not in vain,’ and I believe that” she said. Even when getting grazed by a car herself just weeks ago, she has a way of finding the blessing. “I felt fortunate that the child I was crossing was on my other side.”
It may seem as if life for many is just too demanding to stop to comment on anything, but without exception, families walking on a recent, traffic intensive and wearying day readily shared their views.
“Belinda is great” said Jaime, as daughter Eillah relaxed in her stroller. “She helps those of us who need it, and it is definitely a scary intersection.”
Amelia Duffy walking with her children from ABCD quickly expressed her opinion. “She is awesome, and she knows and likes the kids,” she said.
Erica, with children coming from the Perkins School agreed. “There is everything to like about her. She is there every day, and a lot of cars just don’t stop. It would be more dangerous if she wasn’t on it,” she said.
“She has saved my life many times,” said an older woman and lifelong walker.
Belinda Scott’s generosity of spirit and encouragement does not end with her core job-that of crossing school children- but extends to the life of her corner. There are people dealing with addiction and Belinda Scott thinks about them.
“I respect them, and they respect me, and I have no problems,” she said of the several men and women in a doorway at the corner. “They have been through something, you know? I tell them to go get help, and sometimes they do, and do better,” she said. Belinda Scott’s devotion to family and church is a way of life and it is easy to see every day.
She loves dogs, children, parents and older people and has a rare compassionate lens on all, even errant drivers. She understands that teenagers want more freedom, but she has an eye and extended hand for them, too.
“I treat everyone as if they are my family,” she said. And in doing so, a treacherous intersection becomes a humanized and safer one.