“All right, watch your step!”

The cheerful voice can be heard from one side of the Greenleaf and Ridge intersection to the other, which is exactly what is needed for a crossing guard.

“How was school today?,” asks Lydia Thomas, as she helps students from nearby Nichols Middle School cross the busy roadway.

Just as this was the students’ first day of classes for 2021-22 in District 65, it was also Thomas’ first day holding the big red-and-white stop sign, and sporting a yellowish-greenish fluorescent vest and hat. First day at this corner, that is.

Thomas, a retired Chicago school teacher, has been a crossing guard since 2017. Previously she was stationed near Lincolnwood Elementary. Last year, when school was on remote learning due to the coronavirus pandemic, Thomas had hip replacement surgery, so she would have been out even if school was in.

But today, she was, as she put it, “back on the spot again.” It’s one of those heat/cold/rain/snow types of jobs, but Thomas says she likes all kinds of weather.

Of course, she likes kids as well, and takes their safety seriously.

“No cell phones, keep an eye on the traffic” she tells the children, as she escorts them across the intersection after Day One of classes.

The job can have its scary moments. “I’ve had people go the wrong way down a one-way street,” Thomas explains. “I got their license plate number and called it in.”

Thomas says the students like her friendly and upbeat approach, and even her reminders about cell phone safety.

“They show me a lot of appreciation,” she says. “The parents do, too.”

And with that, her arm with the stop sign aimed at traffic goes up, and it’s “time to get my people across.”

And once again, you can hear her voice on all corners of the intersection:

“Have a good rest of the afternoon!”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.