Road Signs

I’ve been privileged to travel to over 20 countries. I’ve seen some strange road signs in some of them. I think the funniest were the frog crossing signs.

I grew up vacationing in north-central Wisconsin and I lived in Green Bay for seven years before moving to Fort Worth, Texas. I can only imagine how many “deer crossing” signs I drove by. They make sense to me. Even driving slowly, if you hit a deer, it would do major damage to your car. Driving at highway speeds, hitting a deer could easily result in injuries and even death – to you and the deer!

But, frog crossing signs?

Why are road signs on my mind? Because some of the newspaper photos taken in the midst of the Hurricane Katrina tragedy got me thinking. The signs were barely visible above the flood waters. The road couldn’t be seen. The signs could be. But, without the road, they were useless. Signs need roads. Roads need signs.

Have you provided both for the children you know? Seriously. Think about it.

Our grant writer, Lori, came to our office from Missouri for some meetings. She was set to leave our offices and drive to her sister’s home, about 50 miles away. I asked if she had directions. She looked at me and responded, “No. I just thought I’d start driving.”

I was shocked, and probably looked it. There are many highways and roads between where Lori was and where she was going. She had a general sense … “I thought I’d head for the airport and figure it out from there. I know it’s north of there somewhere. I can always call my sister when I think I’m close.”

Maybe you’re like Lori and able to wing it. Or, maybe you’re like me, and prefer to have clear, complete, and accurate directions. All of us use highway signs and have at least a sense of what direction to drive in. We’d all be in trouble if the signs were missing. And, being on the totally wrong road would sure waste our time!

There are some signs I rarely or never see that I wish were used more often. How about signs that announce “potholes up ahead – slow down.” I remember a trip in the middle of the night from the capital city airport in one Central Asian country to our guest housing. The entire van fell into a pothole. A warning sign would have been nice! Do we warn our children of the potholes ahead? Do we give them enough time to react and change course? Do we talk about the decisions they’re making that may jar them or cause them to get stuck or to break down for awhile? Do we do it in such a way that they’ll heed our warnings? Do we instruct, and not just provide advice or opinions? Do we appropriately warn them without exaggerating so our credibility remains intact?

What about detours? Wouldn’t it be great if signs were posted far in advance? (Depending on where you live, I realize you might be thrilled if there were signs posted at all.) Detour signs might allow us to choose a totally different route. This would save us time and stress. Do we warn our children of inefficient detours they’ll have to take if they continue to go down certain paths? Do we teach them how to recognize trouble and do a u-turn regardless of what others might think? Do we help them identify smart roads to stay on?

I think some of the most important road signs to pay attention to are the ones that announce the rest stop up ahead. Maybe you’ve been on the highway and seen a sign that says something like “Rest Area Ahead – Next Rest Area 38 Miles.” Have you stopped or thought it wasn’t necessary? Maybe the next one … only to drive past that one, too. Sometimes we shouldn’t just keep going. Resting is important. Stretching, being refreshed, changing focus, …

Let’s help our children determine when rest is wise and which rest stops are safe. Do they know how to safely get refreshed? Let’s make sure they know to avoid the “falling rocks” zone. That’s another sign that intrigues me. How do highway workers determine where to put those? How many rocks have to fall for an area to get a warning sign?

What about other road signs? Perhaps you’ll ponder this and ask children what they think. For instance, who should they yield to? Who shouldn’t they? Is there ever a time when someone asks them to stop, but they should keep going? Should they slow down every time they face a curve in life? Which exit signs should they follow? How do they know when it’s time to move to another path in life? How can they know they’re going the wrong way? What map do you want them to follow?

Drive safely!