Signs

I don’t get “up north” as much as everyone else seems to. That’s OK with me, overall. I was born much closer to the Mason-Dixon line than the Canadian border, and I’ve been heard to tell my dear husband that our particular address is as far north on our street as I’m willing to live. “One house closer to the arctic, and I QUIT!” is my motto, especially in March. And April. And I won’t even bore you with my complaints about May…because I really do like it here, surrounded as we are by warm and wonderful people.

So, anyway, last weekend when I drove north on I-75 for a soccer tournament, I saw something that may be old hat to the rest of you: The billboards are downright inspiring. Some of them give historical facts about other tough times and tell how people have triumphed through them. (“Bill Gates started Microsoft during a recession.”) Some billboards show photos of truly heroic humans and encourage us to embrace similar values. (“Grace under pressure – Pass It On.”) Other billboards encourage justice, sobriety, mercy, self-discipline, community, generosity, responsibility, and faith. I wondered if the people who drive that road all the time actually notice, and if they appreciate the lack of resounding lewdness that some big city highways impose. I, for one, couldn’t help but feel uplifted. Now, I do recognize that on some level, many of the signs were designed to separate my pennies from my purse. But, really, many were only aiming to motivate goodness. I found my favorite on the way home. Appropriately located at the base of the giant cement bridge near Bay City, at the beginning of the on-ramp, there’s a sign that says, “Need Hope? Call 1-800-Something.”

That one started me drive-dreaming: wouldn’t it be GREAT if we could have these kinds of signs all over our suburbs? Maybe I could call my commission and have them help me organize it. Big, honking signs right smack dab in the middle of our own neighborhoods. Signs so numerous and so humongous – so absolutely OBVIOUS – that nobody could miss them, even if they tried. Signs so surprisingly and warmly welcoming that ANYONE in need of support would be fulfilled by their presence. Signs of faith, hope, and love. Signs of grace, mercy, and peace. Signs undergirded with solid truth, tangible compassion, and practical assistance.

Silly, of course. Ridiculous, right?

Unless…

We ourselves become the signs.