Written October 30, 2016
It’s just one word. There is no head scratching involved in it, as if someone spoke something in specialized language only a few would get. Simple. Precise. It is clear as a mountain mirrored in a lake. In our travels through our towns, villages and cities we see them planted like ancient trees, yet from wood they are not made. I once heard one shaking and rattling like a noisy gong near a stop on the Canadian prairies, wind blowing fiercely. Other than unlikely noises like that, they stand silent, solemn.
Stop signs. What does one do when they see a stop sign? Stop, of course!
Unless you happen to be out for a walk. Or, in a neighbourhood we used to live in, when children play hide and seek. That’s when the sign makes for a convenient home base, where the one who is It closes her eyes and counts to 100; where those who are not, can streak by and touch so they won’t be: It. Some years back my family, along with a few of our musical friends, started a song writers group we called more than gold. We had the notion that not every song is fantastic, yet the practice of regularly writing is a fantastic discipline. Our first song theme was the stop sign at the end of the road. As we visited our capital city, I saw a flock of birds sitting about, the kind that flies on cue and in sync perfectly tuned in, not ever bumping into one another. I wondered how birds would view a stop sign. They’d probably see it as some kind of weird branch.
Birds don’t need to stop at signs that tell them to. The only ones who need heed what stop signs tell, are people in cars; and then only the drivers of such need listen.
I have been driving cars for nearly 40 years. I am convinced that stop signs are too often wrongly placed. For example, stop signs have no place in the middle of parking lots. That is just my opinion, though. I have seen drivers treat stop signs like Yield signs. Stop signs are not yield signs. That one word is a command. Stop! It doesn’t mean slow. I have been one of those drivers who come to the intersection, see the way is quite clear, and roll right on through.
It doesn’t say roll right on. Other signs on the road side have the word “stop” but no one but bus drivers need do.
I once attended a mental health workshop that had as subject the ways our minds, and habits, get us stuck in destructive patterns. One of the ways to handle such negative thinking is first, notice the circular currents and second, challenge the thought. That is, say, “Stop!” to the thought. That stop sign of the mind is very practical (it has a name: called Cognative Therapy). It is good to put a stop to such, and live in more health. The struggle however, comes when saying stop and actually stopping seem about as possible as staying dry while walking through rain busting out of a cloud above.
Stop signs slow us down as we valiantly speed through life. Stopping starts a lower heart beat. It brings a peacefulness for those always in a hurry. It gets us noticing what we often miss. Stopping is good for you.
A Scripture in the Bible holds up a stop sign for those caught in the hurry and flurry and fury life can bring. It’s a quote. The speaker is the God who is There, With us. He it is that says, “Stop already!” Be still, and experience, that I am God. There’s a stop sign worth listening to. It is worth entering in. It is worth slowing down for, and entering into a peace that is soft and comforting and kind. It is a stop sign that hands out strength freely.
Sometimes it’s just hard to stop, as if suddenly ice has formed and we slip and slide and away. Learning how to stop, look, listen and pay attention, is a fantastic practice to do.
What do you do when you see a stop sign?