Reading The Signs

Steve - Denver, Colorado
Entered on February 8, 2009
Age Group: 30 - 50

I believe I am always at a point of choice.

In 1991, Steve Martin starred in the classic comedy, L.A. Story. It might best be remembered for its talking road sign. Martin’s character is lost in career and love. The flashing sign on the side of the freeway gives him guidance and direction: “Kiss her, you fool!”

I recently experienced a talking road sign of my own.

Near my house, there is a church. Outside is sign where they occasionally post a line from scripture for the drivers passing by.

I had had a bad week. I was tired and cranky. I was feeling uninspired by work. My kids were needing more of me than I had to give. My wife and I were bringing out the worst in each other. I was one big clump of gloom and ill temper.

I was fully aware of how I was behaving around my family and why. I knew I was hurting those I loved. I knew I was capable of making better choices. I didn’t want to and I didn’t care.

I once met a wise old teacher who told me to shake off my old patterns with the following command: “If the horse is dead, get off!” In the present moment, the lifeless steed of my irritability was patently not serving me well, but it felt comfortable.

And then I passed the sign outside the church. In bold capital letters, a quotation from the Dalai Lama: “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”

The words hit me with crushing force. This is what had been sorely lacking in my life for the past week. I had shown no love and compassion to anyone. As a direct result, I had not received any in return and I was on a downward spiral.

I may well have passed that exact sign before and never noticed it. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Show love, kindness and compassion to others and things will start looking up. It is essential to who we are at our core. When my children wanted something from me, I became loving. When my co-workers needled me, I showed compassion. When my wife began a conversation with me, I was kind and attentive. It really was that simple.

The immediate effect in my life, in my heart, in my family, was astounding. Such an easy choice, a new way of looking at the same old things, and I was able to create transformation at will. As hard as things may appear, I truly believe I always have choice and it can sometimes be that simple.