The very best stories I am able to tell through words or images find me. I’m just the vessel.
And there is a hidden story screaming to be told through a photograph I took just a few months ago, in October 2013.
This story found me as I flipped through the photos in my camera; an unwitting and ironic image of a portal in the sky seeming to have opened as the sun set over a dead-end alley; Walnut St. Downtown- Muncie, Indiana
But this story is not a Pollyanna dream of naiveté – the idea that we can do anything we want without some sort of parameters-as long as we believe we can. No. This is not that story.
As a matter of fact, that is the greatest lie of modern mankind; Telling one another we can do *anything we want as long as we set our mind to it, without a real game plan to get there. Nonsense. Talk about certain doom; Either for one’s self, or for the others along the way (or in the way) to whichever dream one feels entitled. This is simply not how the world works, or at least not for very long. If you want to create an entitled path of destruction, tell someone they can do whatever they want, by any means necessary – as long as they set their mind to it.
After learning many of my students’ seemingly impossible and heart-wrenching initial back-stories (I have been teaching in a juvenile placement facility for several years) I have seen that sometimes students arrive without any prior set-limits, without the groundwork of a functional role model, haven’t any real life goals, or instead – have grandiose and intangible goals that will mean for them certain doom in their futures.
The good news, however is that many of these same students leave the facility after having been in my classroom and other school programs, having received intensive help from their dedicated treatment teams for several months or years, with a whole new set of limits (stop signs) and realistic goals that mean for them they have not reached a dead end. Setting limits sets them free. I have seen this also through my limited experiences as a CASA- (A Court-Appointed Special Advocate for Children) observing case managers, DCS and mental health service providers bending over backward to find solutions in seemingly impossible circumstances, but also serving as stop signs, to keep children safe and families together. But after all the interventions, if those we’re trying to help believe only they have reached a dead-end, they have.
I understand that there is never just one solution to a human problem in the goal-setting process or in a crisis; there are multiple, even endless combinations of solutions. This is true, even in mathematics.
Sure, there are always a series of x, y coordinates that are not linear, and equations that do result in “no solution” but if you change a coordinate or a sign- Voila.…you have a solution after all.
You simply have to change the equation, change your mode of transportation, turn around or change course.
There is no such thing as a dead-end. The road may end, but a road is just a paved line, and lines are infinite.
As long as we are breathing, we don’t just get to throw up our hands up and quit when we think we see a “Dead End“. Just because you can’t reach an agreement (eh, em-Congress) doesn’t mean you get to stop trying and shut down our government. So there’s no such thing as a dead-end.
We need them. Become a stop sign in 2014.
Just for a moment, think about what the world would be like without stop signs. Think about what would happen if we just decided: “Today, I think I’ll just start ignoring stop signs and red lights because they are inconvenient for me” (me, me, me).
*Pssst. Stop signs are not designed for your convenience. They are designed to stop drivers from hurting other drivers.
Think about what it would be like if we went the Tea Party route- and we took all away all societal “stop signs” out of policy, our financial decisions and personal lives. What if those who complain about always being told what to do finally got their way? A hedonistic, everyone for themselves Twilight Zone where parents stop telling their children what to do, law enforcement and the justice system went away, anarchy took their place- whereas (the NRA says to America- narrated as Oprah’s exclamations in her infamous “Favorite Things” car giveaway) “You get a gun, you get a gun, EVERYBODY GETS A GUN!!!!!” What would happen if the FBI, CDC, FDA, EPA, Department of Education, Department of Homeland Security and all the regulatory/consumer-citizen protective entities that have been criticized for being overreaching, inconvenient, and to be fair- sometimes inefficient- What if they just….vanished?
In other words, what if the Tea Party had its way?
What if we just gave the green light to everyone, regardless of whether they earned it or not? An overly permissive, enabling everyone-gets-a-trophy society?
That sounds equally terrible.
The world needs us to become a stop sign on behalf of our causes in 2014.
Now, more than ever.
What if…..instead of fulminating about all the injustices we see, big or small, we became a stop sign for our causes and the people we care about? What if instead of looking the other way when we see someone being hurt, misrepresented or thrown under the bus over and over, we actually stick our necks out, even a little, and do something about it? What if we when we see bad leadership and harmful dishonesty in the media, from our elected leaders and those in positions of power, we actually offer solutions instead (and no, that doesn’t mean slandering and rendering powerless the leadership with whom we disagree-there is a discernible and an important difference.)
What if we forced our media and journalists to be (gasp)………..ethical?
Or do we prefer the comfortable lies over the truth?
What if we walked the walk; Following through with the higher standards we proclaim to have?
What if we all began setting firm limits with those who continue to run through “stop signs” in our personal lives?
What if we became stop signs through the act of “telling”? (Not tattling, not picking a fight, but just telling the truth.)
Maybe if people (every-day folks, the media, political leaders, etc.) knew they couldn’t get away with it, they may think twice before blowing past our personal and societal “stop signs”.
Important side note: Make no mistake, you do NOT have to become an Edward Snowden to become a stop sign. *Is Edward Snowden really a “stop sign” or an opportunist? A topic to be covered in a different article, perhaps.
Being a stop sign is not becoming an irritating “No” sign.
Stop signs tell us to wait; to stop, look and listen, then….go.
And should you choose to become a stop sign, politically or in your own life, you can expect some blow-back.
But away from the Tea Party, or which ever progressive or conservative politics you may follow in your own life; becoming a stop sign may mean you have to lighten your load; do away with or set parameters with toxic people, old ideas that aren’t working or and to rid yourself of otherwise heavy things that weigh you down (think- Mr. Fredrikson in the Disney movie “Up”)- to do the right thing, to forgive, or to reach your destination; Whatever that is in your own life and the lives of others you seek to protect and honor.
Remember, setting limits sets you free.
Here’s to 2014……..Your destination awaits.
Image: Courtesy: Disneymovies.com