Shy people hate crosswalks. I know, because I’m a shy person — and I hate crosswalks.

They push me out of my comfort zone. They force me to be unnaturally assertive. Because unless I risk life and limb and put a foot out gingerly into the street, those harried and hurried drivers won’t hit the brakes. And even when they finally do, I can hear the agitation and annoyance in their engines as they speed peevishly away.

I disliked crosswalks most when my daughter was little, when she’d impatiently pull at my hand to get to some enticing destination on the other side. I’d look left and right, take a step, pause, then look both ways again. I’d even stare the drivers down, trying to freeze them in place with the strength of my gaze. Obsessively cautious? Of course I was. I had to protect her from them.

People say our nation is at a crossroads, but it’s not. We’re at a crosswalk. Powerful forces far beyond our individual control with agendas not necessarily to our benefit are screaming by — special interests and super PACs, shortsighted ideologues and closed-minded zealots, the greedy and the power-hungry. And none of them will stop unless they have to.

Sooner than later — now, in fact — we each need to move boldly off the curb as aggressive advocates and protectors of the vulnerable among us. We’ll write the letters, make the calls, cast the votes and hammer on the doors of our legislators.

Agree or disagree with the tenets of the Tea Party or Occupy movements, we’ll embrace their belief that enough is enough, and that individual action still means something.

Whether it’s healthcare reform, budget priorities, entitlement programs or any of the other incomprehensibly complicated challenges that affect long-term care, only one goal should matter — getting the people we love and serve safely across the street.

So don’t be shy. Take a step.

Gary Tetz writes from his secret lair somewhere near Walla Walla, WA. Since his debut with at the end of a previous century, he has continued to amuse, inform and sometimes befuddle long-term care readers worldwide.