The Problem with Warning Lights
by Janet Morris Grimes
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Have you ever noticed that warning lights on the dashboard of your car are somewhat ineffective?
Perhaps we are to blame for this. It seems that we either choose to ignore them, (i.e. running out of gas when your gas symbol has been shining brightly for miles) or by the time they are illuminated, it is already too late.
For this reason, my oldest daughter, Crystal, refers to them as “Already Broken” lights, a term we have grown to hate since it usually costs us greatly.
Such is the recent case of my right rear blinker light, which burned out during a terrible storm, while I was driving down a very busy, and extremely dark road. The power was out in the area because of the storm, so I didn’t need the happy ‘lightbulb’ signal on my dashboard to let me know I was in trouble. The blasting of horns and sound of screeching tires served that purpose well, proclaiming my problem to my fellow, somewhat angry travelers.
And this proves my point. If anything should give you a warning light before it goes out, shouldn’t it be a lightbulb?
In most cases, though, by the time your warning light reveals itself, it is usually a culmination of the many ways we may have been ignoring the obvious. Oil in thecar? Antifreeze? Squealing brakes? Now that I think of it, squealing anything is usually a cry for help. But, I guess if we turn our radios up and sing loud enough maybe we won’t ever notice, right?
Wrong. Eventually, everyone will notice, usually when we are stranded on the side of the road, where no one can overlook us.
The same is true with life. What if our relationships, our jobs, our families, and our lives came with warning lights? Would we disregard them at first, causing our small problems to explode into something much bigger? Aren’t we always trying to be the last one across the railroad tracks, in spite of the warnings, before the train slams through?
I heard a story once about the sinking of the Titanic, and the number of warnings that went unnoticed. Days earlier, a warning went out about glaciers in the area. The ship’s Captain altered his course because of this, but other ships were transmiting warnings to the Titanic; warnings that were ignored. Again later that night, other ships were signaling that huge glaciers lay directly in the path of the Titanic.
At that time, the wireless operators were employed to interpret incoming signals and deliver them to passengers. So, these messages were deemed unimportant, and never made it to the Captain. Early that next morning, as the Titanic was sinking and those same wireless operators were desperately sending signals to other ships in the area for help, the messages didn’t get through because their relay equipment had been turned off for the night.
The Titanic sank in two and a half hours, but their problems didn’t start with the impact with the glacier. It started when the warning signals were ignored.
I keep thinking about this when I reflect on the loss of both Michael Jackson and Steve McNair. Both of their deaths could have been prevented, if they had only paid attention to the warnings. The same is true for those who loved and surrounded them. I’m sure now they all wish they had done something to change the path of those two legends.
Sadly, they are now more legendary than ever before, just like the Titanic. They too were on a path that led to trouble. They were sinking and no one did anything to help.
Our society tells us to “mind our own business.” But doing nothing never helped anyone.
I think it would serve us well to recognize our own inability to pay attention to the warning signals in our lives. We would do much better not to leave room for error, to make time to do the right thing, and to care enough about the people in our lives to help them do the same. We should depend on each other, and not the warning lights.
We all need some accountability, and I would rather be hated for trying to do too much, than to later live with regrets. So consider yourself warned – if you matter to me in anyway, and I see you headed down a road that goes nowhere, I plan to stand in your way. We have to love each other enough to at least try to make a difference, right?
You see, the problem with warning lights is twofold. We can’t trust them, nor can we trust ourselves to notice them.
Besides, by the time the warning lights come on, it may already be too late.
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Very good analogy compellingly written. We all need this reminder.
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