Warning Signs

warning signsI’ve never liked sirens. For as long as I can remember, the sound of a siren sends shivers down my spine and sends me running for cover. I remember times as a child when I would be playing in the neighborhood and I would hear a siren. I would run home crying to my mom. For whatever reason, the sound of the siren would get my ever active brain moving into high gear, thinking about the reason for the siren, who might be hurt or injured, what might have happened.

41 years into this thing called life, it doesn’t evoke the same response that it once did, but I’m still not a fan of sirens. That same feeling that I used to get as a kid when I would hear sirens in the distance still creeps up my spine when I hear sirens to this day.

The other day, after the school bus had come for my children, I was taking a walk in our neighborhood. Even with headphones on, I heard sirens in the distance (I guess that’s reassurance that my music wasn’t too loud). I nearly stopped in my tracks as I thought about what was wrong. Who was hurt? Was everything okay with my kids? I learned a long time ago to pray when I heard sirens, so that’s what I did. Then I went on my way and continued my walk, eventually arriving home and realizing that things were okay there.

The thing about sirens is that they are kind of like warning signs. When you hear them, you instantly know that something is not right in the world. The world of the 1950s is behind us, fire engines aren’t generally sent out into neighborhoods to retrieve cats and kittens from trees, at least I don’t think that they are. When there is a siren in the distance, it is generally an indication that there is an emergency somewhere. Something is wrong and the responders are doing what they do best: responding to it.

I wonder how many times in our lives we hear or see warning signs and we look the other way. We know that they’re there for a reason, yet we still turn our backs on them and look the other way. Maybe we think that the situation will fix itself. Maybe we think that the situation is not as grave as it really is. Maybe we just don’t want to be bothered or inconvenienced by a potential emergency in our lives.

Regardless of why we might avoid or ignore warning signs, the end result will never be anything beneficial. Eventually, those warning signs will creep up again and it we have done nothing to address the warning that was signaled to us in the first place, the chances are pretty good that the situation that was once grave will be downright catastrophic by the time we finally respond.

I will fully admit that there are some times when warning signs will pop up and they seem to sound the alarm to make it seem like things are worse than they really are. For instance, the “Check Engine” light in your car might come on just because you didn’t screw your gas cap on tightly enough. There are other cases when warning signs come off as false indicators, causing alarm when they really shouldn’t be going off at all. But let’s face it, these situations are not as common as we might think or as we might convince ourselves that they are.

As I get older, I’m doing my best to look for and listen to the warning signs that go off around me. Sometimes, I might get alarmed myself by them, escalating what the real problem is in my mind before I even have a real analysis. But if I am heeding those warning signs and following up with them, the chances are slim that whatever they are warning me about will get worse by addressing it as soon as the warning signs go off.

The end results of listening to those warning signs may be scary. They may cause us to address things that make us uncomfortable. They may lead to changes that we don’t want to face or even have to address. But what’s the alternative? What will happen if we leave those warning signs unaddressed? That’s just a chance that I’m not sure I’m willing to take.


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