When I was 18, I signed up for a driver’s education course at my high school. The class was composed of two parts: the classroom learning where we were taught the basic rules of driving, and the practical skills part, where, in groups of four, we took turns driving a car for 20 minutes at a time to build our confidence. My group was a motley crew of students who could not have been more different from each other and whom I had never met before. I remember a red-headed boy in particular because he had a question for everything we learned. One day, we were talking about the importance of using the turning signal.
“Do we always need to use the turning signal?” he asked.
“Of course,” replied the instructor.
“What if there is only one car on the road and it is half a mile behind you?”
“Yes, you still need to use your signal.”
“What if there is no one else on the road at all, just you? Do you still need to use the turn signal?”
“Yes, you still need to. It’s very important!”
“Because people need to know that you’re going to change lanes.”
“It’s for safety. It’s the law.”
The conversation ended there, and though I could tell the red-headed boy was not completely satisfied, he let it go and the rest of the lesson finished without any further inquiries.
From then on, the idea of using a turn signal has always fascinated me. Why do we use the turn signal? Is it for ourselves or for others?
Life is filled with twists and turns. Some of them are planned and some are unforeseeable. We make changes as our lives progress, some small and insignificant, and some huge and influential. When we make a change in our life that we feel we need to make because it will either help us become the person we want to be or assist us to stop being the person we no longer think we are, what steps do we take? One of the first things we do is consult with others and seek their approval. We let them know that we are thinking of changing professions, taking a class, changing the clothes we wear, becoming more religious, becoming less religious, who we are voting for, and so on. However, who are we asking, and in what capacity?
If we compare our journey through life to driving a car, and the choices and changes we make to using a turn signal, we gain powerful insight.
We use the turn signal to let others know we are going to be making a turn so that they can prepare themselves and remain safe, i.e. unaffected by the fact that we are turning. We do not use our turn signal so that other cars can decide whether we should turn. However, what about the people in our car? When we use our turn signal the people in the car with us realize that we are going to be making a turn, and depending on the degree of backseat drivers that they are, they will make suggestions and recommendations on whether or not we should make the turn or continue going straight. At the end of the day though, the decision to turn, or not to turn, remains the driver’s. All too often, we allow the opinions of others determine our choices and the path we take. We have to be careful who we tell about the changes we want to make, and how we tell them. Are we seeking approval, or consulting for an opinion? Are we asking people who don’t fully understand us? Are the people we are signalling to in our car, or far off in the distance in another vehicle?
Use your turn signal to let the people close to you know you’re going to be making a turn, and that you are changing course. Consider what they have to say and whether they think the change you’re about to make will help you get to your destination faster. However, remember that ultimately you make the decision to turn the blinker on or off, and whether to make a turn, or stay the course.
A good friend of mine recently told me that he was thinking about getting a tattoo of the words “courage, trust, faith,” because they were so meaningful to him. He said to me, “I’m not asking you for permission, but I want to hear what you think.” Here was a man that knew how to use his signal. I feel honored that he includes me in the people that he allows in his car of life, but, more than that, I respect his autonomy and strength to know that he is sitting in the driver’s seat.
Yisrael lives in Greater Vancouver, Canada with his wife Ettie, and three children. He works with a social service agency dedicated to supporting adults with a developmental disability and youth at risk. He enjoys playing with his children, learning Torah, writing, and doing handyman projects around home. Yisrael writes with the hope of inspiring people to maximize their potential and bring spirituality alive. His mission is to reveal G-dliness in everyday life!