Have you ever seen a traffic light?

Well, of course you have. I trust that you live near something at least remotely resembling roads or buildings or urbanization; therefore you have encountered a traffic light sometime in your life.

My question is, have you ever paid attention to one?

I’m not talking about when you’re crossing the street and watching the traffic light blink down the flashing red numbers, urging you to hurry up so you don’t get hit by a car. I’m talking about when you’re sitting in the front seat of the car, not driving, just watching as the light turns red.

The traffic light is pretty important. It keeps cars from crashing into each other, and subsequent injuries, car repairs, and high insurance fees, and who knows what else. Usually drivers like the lights a lot more when they are welcoming green instead of warning red, because no one wants to get stuck behind a red light every block. Some people will just keep driving as it turns from yellow to red, deliberately, because they can’t be stopped and don’t live by the rules and do what they want, as independent young adults who don’t abide by no laws.  They don’t care if they crash and burn, because they don’t want to be that person that gets stuck behind the red light when all the cars in front had made it past the intersection.

But if we didn’t have these warnings controlling the paths of people in their cars, we would be crashing and falling and no one would get anywhere. If everyone decided to race down the road, ignoring everyone else and pushing them out of the way, this world would be chaos. It’d be a world where everyone only thinks of themselves, where it doesn’t matter what happens to anyone else, or whether anyone gets hurt, because the only thing that matters is that you get to where you’re trying to go.

So sometimes you’ll be waiting, because it’s the right and virtuous thing to do. But think again. Why are you stopping? Because there’s this brainless metal box in front of you saying you can’t go? Sometimes there’s no one on the road. There aren’t any cars coming. Just a wide open road beckoning to you, but you’re not going because of a little red dot. Yes, it’s a warning, but to what? What have you got to lose? After all, the warning seems so incredibly meaningless, right?

But then there’s that moment. When all signs point to yes, and you can step on the accelerator and rush to where you’re going. And in that moment, you’re free, unrestrained from all the things that have been holding you down. Out of that dreaded waiting place. And it doesn’t matter whether you rebel from the laws of the metal box or not, because your time had come. Just you wait. The time will always come.

Once again, you encounter another flashing light, another gatekeeper in your path deciding your fate for the next block. Maybe it’ll say green, and you’ll go past it without any moral qualms. Or maybe it’ll say red, and you’ll obey it for some strange reason, because other people are waiting for their turn to live in the fast lane. The traffic light will continue to let people in, let people out, tell them to stop, tell them to go – because it is an object of fairness, one that keeps order amongst both humans of greed and humans of generosity, making sure that everyone gets a chance to pass through the gate.

But, I mean, it’s just a traffic light.