Apparently stop signs are optional in our neighborhood. I have had an increasing number of close calls with drivers who, at worst, refuse to comply to a stop sign, or, at best, simply tap the break.
Another favorite driving method of people in our neighborhood is the famous “alley honk.” One drives down an alley at a high rate of speed, approaches the sidewalk at the end, and, instead of slowing down, honks so that any potential pedestrians can fend for their lives by diving out of the way.
They think they own the road!
It got me to thinking that I am too often like those drivers. As I drive down the road of life, I sometimes charge forward, without slowing down, and without consideration for the thoughts, needs, or desires of those around me. Plato is supposed to have said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” It doesn’t take much for me to make someone’s battle even more difficult by charging ahead without slowing down and being sensitive.
I think I own the road. But I share the road of life with all kinds of other travelers. Some go flying by me like they’re on the autobahn. Others pull in front of me and slow me down in the middle of my busy day. Still others are in the left-hand lane with their right turn signal on, happily oblivious to it all.
One of the keys to both creativity and effective ministry is collaboration. It’s difficult to move forward without others giving direction and providing protection. Consider the “stop” method of slowing down and avoiding the “alley honk”:
- S = Stop. Each morning stop and consider the people with whom you will interact throughout the day. Think about the challenges, struggles, and difficulties they may be going through. It will prepare you for the interactions you may be having. You can approach each encounter in a unique and caring way.
- T = Talk. Instead of a texting or email exchange, talk face to face as much as possible. Try to avoid the “alley honk,” where you just shout your position and keep on moving. Listen carefully to other thoughts and ideas. Come to agreement and move forward knowing that each member of the team is protecting the other.
- O = Observe. Instead of just plowing through the day, or a meeting, or an activity, take some time to observe body language of those with whom you are working, creating, or planning. Body language speaks volumes and may help you understand the climate of the room before moving ahead into work. Observe body language and move ahead accordingly.
- P = Proceed. Once you have stopped, talked, and observed, it’s time to move forward. Caution has been observed in the previous three steps. Now it’s time to take action. Work with your team, family, or colleagues to reach common goals and objectives. As long as you have consensus, move boldly.
It’s always a good thing to observe stop signs and proceed with caution. It’s just as important in life as it is on the road. Stop, Talk, Observe, and then Proceed. When done collaboratively these steps will result in creative and excellent work.
What steps would you add to the “S.T.O.P.” list?