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Do you remember how most of us learned to cross streets by ourselves? Before letting us go on our own or even just let go of their hand, most mothers taught us the mantra STOP, LOOK and GO.

They knew from first-hand observation that we needed to be taught to stop and look. The fear in their hearts and the nightmare of an unwitting driver would be the child running after a ball without looking first.

So they drilled into us to take time to stop so we could become aware of our surroundings and go safely. If you don’t remember perhaps reading “Teaching Kids to Navigate Streets” trigger memories of some lessons.

Crossing the streets of our lives

Crossing the streets of our lives is shorthand for living an unexamined life. We simply keep moving ahead, often chasing this or that shiny object that we think will make us happy.

We often rush across the streets of our lives without looking. It is not a new phenomenon. Socrates put it this way “The unexamined life is not worth living.” 

It’s time to remember what we were told as children when we learned to cross the street.

Stop, Look  and Go

Stop... Look... Go That’s all.

But how often do we stop?

We have to stop. We have to get quiet. And we have to build stop signs into our lives.

One of the more powerful techniques for stopping is prayer.

I am not thinking of our penchant for “gimme” prayers. I am thinking of prayerful listening to how the ”still small voice” of God is trying to open our ears to hear and our eyes to see.

And when you stop, then the next thing is to look.

We need to look… open your eyes and ears.

We open our hearts, our hearts discover the opportunities in our streets.

We see opportunities to grow even in the most difficult and painful streets of our lives.

And when we open our hearts to the opportunities, the opportunities invite us to do something, and that is the third.

Stop, look, and then go, and really do something.

We can follow whatever opportunity to grow in the present moment. Whatever it is, if we take this opportunity, we can learn something from even the most difficult experiences of life. Just remember how people have found deeper meaning for their lives in the midst a great suffering.

See how the great ones cross the streets of their lives

We all have our heroes and teachers. Among my heroes, St. Vincent DePaul stands out for how he learned to cross the streets of his life.

Vincent de Paul thought he knew what he wanted from life. In 1617 as he crossed the streets of  Chatillon and then Follevile he woke up to the reality of the spiritual abandonment and physical misery of those on the margins. These insights took him a lifetime to unpack.  And look at how he changed the face of church and society in France.

Questions we need to ask

  • When do we stop to listen to the events of our lives?
  • Are we open to the opportunities for growth even in the difficult streets we must cross?
  • Do we go forward with “strength of our arms and the sweat of our brows.”

[Watch Br. David Steindl-Rast’s two minute video “Stop, Look and Listen”]

Click below for an audio version of this Vincentian Mindwalk.

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