I Believe in Four-Way Stops

Gabriella - New Orleans, Louisiana
Entered on March 7, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

There is something very special about four-way stops. I mean, think about it: a stop sign. A mere sign that makes people stop completely and consider others. I believe that the way people stop in four-way stops tell a lot about their personality. There is, for instance, the suspicious person that stops and doesn’t move until he is sure that the other person is stopping and it is safe to cross. Then, there is the self-conscious person that only stops because he is afraid of the sign. He fears that it will tell the cops that he disobeyed the law, so just for safety he stops. But as quickly as he stepped in the breaks he will step in the gas to keep on going, no matter how many cars had stopped before him. Then there is the absolutely respectful person that will not move until at least five seconds have passed even when there is clearly no one else coming. And finally there is the careless person that simply forgets the sign and moves on.

We all are one of these persons at least once in our lifetime. But what I love the most about four-way stops is not that we can see other’s personalities, but the fact that you are given the opportunity to interact with the other person, if even for a brief moment, and see how their day is going.

I believe that we need to have more four-way stops in our life. I believe that we as human beings need to spend, even for just a few seconds, some time to stop and look at other people around us. We need to let them pass before us so that we could consider them, acknowledge them and maybe even study them a little. And we need to do this to refresh our memory and see that we are not alone in this world. Once we start practicing the four-way stops throughout our lives, we will realize that there is life everywhere we look. We will realize that we are not alone and hopefully we will start growing in this understanding and we will want to know more about the people around us. We will start having conversations again, and we will then make more and more friends, or enemies. But we will be confident in these relationships because we took the time to notice them and understand why or why not the relationship is worth keeping.

We also need to stop every so often and think about all the relationships we have had and throw a little bit of wood into the fire of friendship. I have come to realize that people, even with this magnificent world of technology, of communicating with someone across the globe in a matter of seconds, are becoming more and more distant. Nowadays there are no tea parties, no picnics, and no real communication. What I mean by this is that people now barely get together, and when they do, it is either to watch TV, watch a movie, or go to a party. You really cannot have a real conversation when you are doing any of these things. It feels like even though we have all the resources to go visit our best friends to tell them the story of the day, we choose to summarize it by just texting it in less than ten words. And I believe that the fact that we are doing this makes us feel like the person on the other side of the phone, or the computer, really isn’t there. So all the conversations we have really are with machines, not people. And so because we feel this, we start believing that the people around us cannot feel like we feel, they cannot dream like we dream, and they cannot think like we think.

And, so, I encourage you to consider the four-way stop. Look at the person crossing your path and acknowledge them, even if it’s only for a few seconds. I am sure you will find it fascinating.