Still Waters: Rules for the road, and life

Our responsibilities towards others in life are a lot like our responsibilities towards others on the road:

• If you are first at a stoplight, you’d better pay attention, because there are people behind you who depend on you to get your rear in gear once the light changes. Of course you want to make sure some knucklehead hasn’t just blown through a red light right in front of you, but once the coast is clear, it’s your responsibility to move.

Likewise, if you are also first in line in an organization or business or family, you have a responsibility to lead those behind you. They are counting on you. They are looking to you for leadership and action that they can follow. It may sometimes be a hassle to be the first in line, because it does come with responsibility, but the lot will not always be yours. Someone else will take that role. Then you have to know when to apply the brakes behind them so you don’t rear-end them.

• If you encounter danger, like deer making the highway their crosswalk or an accident blocking the road ahead, try to warn those heading into the danger zone. It could save someone’s life.

Likewise in life, if you are aware of danger, alert everyone who might be coming into its path. Maybe you have already suffered consequences in your life from running into hazards like drugs, alcohol or other wrong choices. You can be the one to warn others and show them how to avoid the same mistakes. Whatever you need to do to save someone else’s life, do it. Make the road safer for the next “motorist” in life.

• And when someone else is headed towards an accident or other emergency to offer assistance, get the heck out of the way. Of course it’s the law to pull over for emergency vehicles, but it’s also common courtesy and makes good sense. Getting in their way can slow them down, hinder them or even cause another accident.

It seems obvious in life as well, but there are people who get in the way of those who are trying to make life better. They slow them down. They criticize their efforts. They may even create a new accident, as it were. Not everyone provides the solution we might like and may not come to a resolution the way we would, but we need to let others try their best without getting in their way or discouraging them.

• So many traffic rules, and rules of life, are about being courteous to others. Rules like moving to the slow lane so others can pass, dimming your lights for oncoming traffic, stopping behind school buses, yielding to pedestrians and many other rules are designed not just for safety but also for courtesy. Most motorists obey those rules, but there are those on the road and in life who ignore everyone else and just move as fast as they can to their destination.

Courtesy really may be a lost art with many people. It goes beyond “please” and “thank you” or holding the door for someone instead of slamming it behind you. It extends a hand to others who are struggling and watches out for those who are weaker and more vulnerable, especially those who cannot stand up for themselves or speak for themselves.

• Some journeys are not so much about reaching a destination through the most efficient route, drawing a line from starting point to destination, but there are trips that are meant just to enjoy the scenery along the way or “just for fun” to see where a road might lead or to travel a route that you’ve never taken before.

The same is true in life. We have enough destinations we must reach that are necessary, but we also need to take those “Sunday drives” that may lead us to an unexpected destination or may lead us nowhere at all. Sometimes we just need to take a side trip, enjoy the scenery or even stop to rest. We don’t always have to get somewhere. We can sometimes just enjoy the drive.