What did you think of when you saw this title word? No, this isn't a personality test. I'm just curious what immediately jumped into your mind. Was it a Stop sign? Was it M. Night Shyamalan's movie with the same title, in which Joaquin Phoenix's character is told to "Swing away, Merrill" to combat the alien? Was it synonymous with "coincidences"?
I have always thought that signs can be really funny. I've been talking with students in one of the classes I teach about how the vision and mission of the school often are not made apparent to the school employees. And if they are, it is often in a perfunctory manner. For instance, before I became a school principal, we had an accreditation visit. Every staff member, we were told, needed to know the vision and mission statements. The solution? Put up signs with both the vision and mission written on them in the staff bathrooms. While 80% of our staff members were female, the question was brought up about whether we needed the signs both behind the toilet as well as on the wall opposite the toilet (already, this concept is going south, right??). My question about initiatives like this is, "To what end?" Say I get "quizzed" by the accreditation police, and I can spout off the vision and mission as quickly as I could recite the names of the girls in my pledge class in college (don't test me on that one----I can do it before a lit match burns out). What does that really mean? That, in my humble opinion, is a waste of a sign. Words without meaning are just minutia, aren't they?
When I was a principal, the staff members at our school were AMAZING. For the most part, we all got along famously, but there were a few times (as in any natural habitat) when tensions would rise and conditions might get heated. We all pitched in to ensure harmony was restored when this happened, but you just can't totally get rid of "snarkiness", can you? One of our dearest staff members was known for prayer (behind closed doors and only with people who wanted it, of course), putting encouraging notes in mailboxes, and spouting off a little "Woo-hoo" when she came in a room and saw someone. She and I jokingly said that "Woo-hoo" just uplifted us just a bit. It couldn't hurt anything, could it? Au contraire. Much to my surprise, I walked into the mailroom one day to find a note stuck on the bulletin board (among important school board notices, flyers about where to get free glasses for students in need, and new cafeteria protocols) that read: "No more 'woo-hoo', please!" Yep, you heard it here, folks. A call to arms had been made to dismantle any more 'woo-hooing'. I promptly took that sign down and put it in the circular file before too many other people could see what nonsense was permeating our bulletin board. But really??
As I travel a good bit for work, I often see signs that make me giggle. I saw one sign, while driving in a northern state, that said, "WARNING: touching wires could cause instant death" and underneath, it said, "$200 fine". Wait....what? I'm fairly certain that, if I do not heed the warning, that fine is going to be left unpaid.
Another one is "This sign is currently not in use". Ummm....I think it is in use, telling me that it is available, right? Things that make you go "Hmmmm....." I love them! I've included one more funny one as the introduction to this blog. I am so grateful for humor.
Now, seriously, let's talk about those less tangible signs we feel we should pay attention to---you know, the kind that people often attribute to coincidence but are quite possibly prompting us to think more deeply about our own lives and their conditions. For instance, after someone is arrested and convicted for some deeply disturbing act, neighbors and family members are often heard saying things like, "I never saw any signs that he was troubled".
I, personally, made a plea to God about 25 years to give me a sign if He thought I should quit drinking alcohol. I had been thinking about how important alcohol seemed to be getting to me. I figured if God thought I should quit drinking, He would send a sign. The next day, I was in my car, when all of a sudden, a song came on the radio called "That's Why I'm Here" by Kenny Chesney. I had never before heard it, and I actually still rarely hear it. But there it was....a song that quite obviously is about a man who is telling his wife he has started going to AA to get his life back on track. Literally, what could be more of an obvious sign, not just tapping but poking me (hard) on the shoulder, by God? What did I do? Changed the radio station, of course. Surely that wasn't a sign....and it would be 6 more months before I made the decision to turn my will and my life over to God to help me see that I had an allergy to alcohol. I know what you are likely thinking: What idiot couldn't see that sign's significance? The answer is: "this idiot".
Just like many of us who find ourselves seeking a solution to a troubling life problem, but we simply can't see the solution for all the muddled mess (or maybe the "pity committee") in our brains. It's so very easy to armchair quarterback this one (Dave is going to be so proud of me, not just for using this sports reference but using it accurately!)....when it is someone else.
Signs that are set forth right in front of us are often ignored because we're too busy with other stuff, we simply ignore what is right in front of our faces. I hold a personal belief that there truly are NO coincidences. If I run into someone (not literally or with my car, for Pete's sake---everyone just settle down) I haven't seen in a very long time (or reconnect with an old friend on Facebook), it is highly likely there was a significant reason for that. The problem is: I have to be open-minded and look up long enough to be aware of what is happening right in front of me. As someone who is a 7.5 or 8 on a "risk-scale" (based on 10 being the most risky person ever), I have experienced a niggling feeling when entering a situation in which I likely have no business being; and if I continue along that path, despite said niggling sensation, my guardian angel (if you believe in such things) is likely sighing heavily while she puts her head in her hand, shaking her head in disbelief, and muttering, "Seriously??".
So, maybe the message this week is to pay attention to our surroundings: the people in need, the people who are there for us, the solitude we have been searching for; the signals from our body saying we need to slow down and rest a bit or we're in for bigger trouble soon (oops! wait! that one can't be for me, I'm sure, despite the fact that I have been run down and feeling crummy for the last two weeks after 10 days on the road for work). Listen and watch for the signs, and stick around to watch the miracle occur.
I sure would love to hear your own experiences of "signs" on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. Please consider posting a response to my post.