Recently, while we were driving, we were sitting at a very busy intersection. Cars were zooming by from the left and from the right. To further complicate the matter, this was an intersection that had several lanes flowing in both directions plus a line of cars behind us awaiting their turn to enter what can be challenging even for a seasoned driver. I could see the stress begin to show on her face as she was unsure of what she should do and when she should do it. After a few seconds, I begin to hear the sounds of car horns behind us for her to move on. To ease her anxiety, I carefully and slowly talked her through it making sure that she understood how dangerous it could be, but still letting her know that if she proceeded correctly and safely with her decisions, it was certainly doable. After looking both ways, several times, she made her move and migrated into the traffic frenzy without incident. She looked a little pale. But, then again, I probably did as well.
I began to think about how this recent learning experience is repeated throughout our lives. It is relevant not only for beginning drivers, but in most everything that we do. We are constantly entering life's intersections not knowing which way we should turn or if we should turn at all. In some cases, we choose to avoid the intersection altogether, even when the intersection must be navigated to get to the location that we desire. We simply give in to the fear of crossing the intersection knowing full well that the streets are in better condition on the other side. Some of these intersections provide us safe passage and others prove to be a complete failure based on us taking the wrong turn or entering the intersection at the wrong time. Each one has its own challenges.
These decisions are important to all of us as adults and even more important to our children. Not only do we have to teach them when and how to enter these crossroads, but we have to teach them the ramifications of their decisions. We also must be careful when making our own decisions as our children are always watching. If we make a wrong turn, and then justify it rather than correcting it, it has the potential of sending a message to our kids that the wrong turn was no big deal. We all know that it can be a very big deal. This misinformation may be the worst wrong turn that we can make.
Learning to master life's intersections is a continuing process. Some would say that it is impossible to have total success, but we do get better at them based on experience. Do I go left or right? Should I proceed slowly or should I accelerate immediately to get right into the flow? Or is this an intersection, even though we see it clearly ahead and coming up fast, that we simply should avoid and take a side street before we get there? Each one has a different answer. Even with this careful evaluation, we will still have times where we will make the wrong decision. But, these wrong decisions do not have to be fatal. It is merely a matter of evaluating the traffic flow, understanding the signs and warning devices in place, and then moving into the intersection in a careful and well-prepared for technique.
Just as we would do on the real intersections, and realize that we have made a wrong turn, we simply look for a street or an exit where we can correct our mistake and begin to travel back to that point where we want to be. We would never continue to travel on a road that is taking us in the wrong direction and neither should we continue to travel down the wrong path that we may have taken at a life intersection. We make the correction, as traffic and circumstances allows, and get back on the right path. And, thank goodness that in both circumstances, one traffic sign says it all. U-turns are permitted unless posted otherwise. Or, to put it in more modern GPS vernacular ... .RECALCULATING!!!
Stan Hall is the director of Gwinnett County's Victim Witness Program. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.