green stop sign with the words "GO" on itThere are no signs in the sky—well, at least no man made signs. I like this. One of the reasons I relish my time in the air is due to the brief break from a landscape littered with so many negative signs. “Stop.” “Slow.” “Keep Off The Grass.” “No Admittance.” “Stay Back.” Everywhere you turn, you find words trying to contain you, limiting you. Where are the positive signs out there? Even the billboards we see on the highway, the ones that seem to convey a positive message, are typically negative in their subtext, which usually is, “You are not good enough until you have this,” whatever this may be.

I wasn’t always so aware of this negative assault until a wise person pointed it out to me. Last year I had stopped at some construction on a two-lane road, mine the first vehicle in a growing line of cars. A workman stood in front of my car holding the familiar red stop sign on a stick. As I sat there, probably thinking about work or some item on a long to-do list, a young voice floated up from the back seat.

“Dad… are there any “Go” signs in the world?”

The owner of the voice was my youngest son, Cort, who was 4-years-old at the time. Cort is always keen to know, as he puts it, “what is and isn’t in the world.” For some reason, he puts lots of emphasis on the in the world part when he says it.

I was silent for a moment, dredging my memory to recall if I had ever seen a “Go” sign. There were green lights, of course—on stoplights, mind you, not go lights—but that wasn’t what Cort meant and I knew it. His question had surfaced because he was watching the man hold the stop sign. Even he knew the opposite side didn’t read, “Go.” Truth was, I’d never seen a “Go” sign other than the space on the monopoly board, but I didn’t think that counted.

We dads pride ourselves on having great answers, so I managed the best I could.

“I’ve never seen one, Cort,” I said with a big grin, “but if there aren’t any “Go” signs in the world, then by gosh there ought to be!”

I watched his face in the rear view mirror and hoped he’d smile with me, giving some signal he thought my answer was a fine piece of wisdom. Heck, at that moment, I would have settled for just plain acceptable. His face told me it wasn’t. Maybe he appreciated my effort, but I could tell he was troubled by the fact that there may not be “Go” signs in the world. But that should trouble us all, not just the 4-year-olds in the world.

Sometimes what someone else says can stay with you for days. This was one of those times for me. Where are the “Go” signs? I kept thinking. And what about the “Dream” signs, and the “Relax” signs? Who stole the “Breathe” signs and the “Fly” signs? Was there a sign Grinch among us who slithers through the world year round removing any positive message, or could we as a society really be so oblivious that we willingly populate the world with so much negativity?

I know we need rules. We can’t have cars barreling through busy intersections. But shouldn’t we at least counter every negative sign with a positive one? “Stop” would become “Stop and Breathe.” “Slow” would become “Slow Down and Enjoy.” “Keep Off The Grass” would include, “Fly Over It Instead.” “No Admittance, But Your Mind Is Free To Go Anywhere.” “Stay Back, and Relax.”

I have this hunch—don’t ask me how I know—that our government and municipalities will never erect signs like these. But guess what? They don’t have to because I see them all the time now. And it. Feels. Great. Every time I arrive at a stop sign, I envision it as “Stop and Breathe.” It actually becomes tremendous fun to see how you can turn negative signs into positive ones. So next time you see a sign that limits you, transform it into a sign that frees you. We all need that kind of positive influence in the world.

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