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Posted November 24, 2012 | comments Leave a comment

Chastity Harris: Don't be blind to life's traffic signs

By Chastity Harris

"I didn't see the stop sign, officer."

You could replace stop sign with many things; speed limit sign, yield sign, traffic light, pedestrian. What he's thinking? You weren't paying attention.

That's a little harsh. Maybe you were ultra-focused and it caused a tunnel effect. If you're thinking three steps ahead, it's a little hard to be in the moment.

For instance, you're processing how you're going to pick up the kids, swing through the drive-through at the heart attack shack, get to baseball and gymnastics on time, and still manage to finish a baking soda volcano before midnight. Somewhere between the backward somersault and flowing lava in your brain you failed to see the gigantic red stop sign right in front of you.

When the amount of things to do reaches titanic levels, in terms of size and feelings of sinking, I start chanting. Focus on one thing at a time. If my brain starts to race ahead, I stop and repeat "One thing at a time." It may not be efficient, but it's kept me from jumping off any large buildings, and I haven't missed any stop signs lately.

Maybe your issue is not in your timeline, but in what you're looking for. If you're searching for a stop light with every fiber of your being, chances are you're going to miss all the other signs.

When my son was 3, he toddled over to a drum display in the front of the vision center in our local Walmart. I nervously waited in line to pick up a pair of glasses. Whose bright idea was it to leave out the drumsticks?

With much effort he pulled himself up on the stool and stared at the drums for a few moments. I was now being fitted with my glasses and was powerless to stop the ear-splitting explosion of noise that was about to descend upon us.

It didn't come.

He lightly tapped one drum after another, getting a feel for each sound. Then, to my utter amazement, he began experimenting with simple beats. For five minutes he entertained shoppers with his first performance.

The vision of that memory became fuzzy over the years as we focused on finding our son's talents. We wanted to be supportive parents who helped our children find whatever activity would make them happy. Did they want to try soccer, baseball, karate? We sat through practices and games of all sorts and looked for signs of interest or talent.

There were lots of things he enjoyed, but nothing he was really passionate about. Then one day last week he came home with his brand new recorder from music class. It was almost like getting a new puppy.

He did five times the required practice every night, and then began making up his own tunes.

When we asked if any of the three kids were interested in piano lessons, you'd have thought we asked if they wanted donuts for dinner. It was a resounding yes.

In searching so hard for a detail, we had missed the most obvious part of the picture.

It could be that we're so sign overloaded on a daily basis that when we see a real sign with meaning, it doesn't always register.

If you've been to an amusement park lately you probably understand what I'm referring to.

They have signs to tell you where to wait in line, where and how to order your over-priced food, even where to stand in line to get a ticket to stand in line.

Because of legal requirements, even the tamest of rides now have signs warning you that if you are not in perfect health, with the heart of a lion, the spine of Gumby and an iron stomach you may experience discomfort or even injury.

Many times I've almost given up on writing. Sometimes a subtle nudge is all I've needed to get back on track. Others, I've needed a giant Vegas-style flashing neon sign. A few months ago I was prepared to take down my blog and give up on trying to publish my novel. That's when I received the opportunity to do a guest column in the Northern Virginia Daily. Hello, neon sign.

Luckily, Heavenly Father doesn't give traffic tickets for missing the signs of life. It would, however, improve the quality and pace of our lives if we took the time and thought to see the whole picture.

Wouldn't you like to see that next stop sign, before you pass it?

Chastity Harris is a Shenandoah County native. With the help of her husband of thirteen years, she juggles three kids, a full-time job, and a yard full of chickens. Email her at chastityh16@gmail.com.

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