01/11/2012 09:34 am ET Updated Mar 12, 2012

What Getting Hit by a Car Taught Me About Morality

I cannot tell you how many times I've heard people complaining about how morality no longer exists, and how people were so much better back in the days of old. People both young and old go on and on about how everyone's either afraid of each other or out to get each other in Los Angeles. I feel like I've been taught to assume that everyone that I don't know on the street is automatically a horrible person.

Compare that to the idyllic, noble happy image of [pick any decade before this one] and you think you have proof that people simply aren't as nice as they used to be.

That's what you would think. And that's what I thought for a long time even though I don't know of any other time. But my opinion was drastically changed last April.

It was a lazy, sunny Saturday. I live about three miles from my school, so when I don't have to get up early in the morning, I like to ride my bike there. That day I had to ride there to take my PLAN standardized test. It wasn't a big deal, and it wouldn't count for anything, so I didn't sweat it. I said goodbye to my friends who were there, and headed back home.

It was around lunchtime, so I was eager to get home and make myself a sandwich. My mom was at work, and my dad was at my brother's basketball game, so I was headed to an empty house, perfect for lounging around on the couch after an exhausting test. The sky felt so big that day. The air was warm, with a cooling breeze wafting through my hair (I was wearing a helmet, though).

On my route home I have to pass by a Westfield Mall, and it's always very busy. To get to my house, I need to cross the street at the mall, but there's no stoplight. Instead, there's a crosswalk that flashes lights and notifies drivers to slow down when someone's on the crosswalk. It had never been problematic for me before, but I could no longer say that once I was halfway across that day.

Perhaps the strong sunlight prevented him from seeing the flashing lights. Perhaps he couldn't see me because the stopped car in the center lane blocked his view. Perhaps I was going across the crosswalk too fast, and he anticipated me to be slower. Perhaps he wasn't thinking. Perhaps I wasn't thinking.

Whatever the case was, one second I was going across the cross walk -- and the next second I was on the pavement. I looked through the rising steam and yelled helplessly at the top of my lungs: "WHAT?! WHAT?! WHAT?!!!!" I wanted to curse, but I didn't, because I knew that I was near a mall on a Saturday, and there might be some kids nearby (that's one point for morality).

Completely forgetting my pencil bag and bike lying on the pavement, I called my dad to tell him that I'd gotten hit, and to pick me up at the corner. Taking a moment to realize that I was feeling no pain, I sat down on a lawn at the street corner, curling up and realizing that I was not only hysterically crying, but also my arm was bleeding a lot.

I didn't realize it because my eyes were closed, seeing the nose of the car over and over again, but there was a crowd of people around me. Some of them had been walking by and stopped, others had pulled their cars over. One of them... was the man who hit me.

Everyone was so nice. They called their previous engagements to let them know that they'd be late. They pulled my bike and things over and organized it all in a nice pile. A woman who lived across the street from me not only offered some ice for my arm, which turned out to be scraped pretty badly from the fall, but also offered me some cake she had from when her grandkids were over.

My dad came as quickly as possible, and talked it over with the man who hit me. Rightfully so, he was just as shaken up as I was. He offered to pay any expenses on my bike and they exchanged information. Soon, most of the people in the crowd began discussing a petition to make that crosswalk into a real stop light. Apparently, there had been many instances like this before.

I recovered quite easily, but the incident left so many more marks than just road burn. Now, when I go for a run, I don't avoid eye contact with people. I smile and wave to people who live in my neighborhood. This experience has shown me that morality isn't gone; people just don't know it's there.