We were young newlyweds at Chanute AFB in central Illinois. On Sunday afternoons we would go for a ride just to see the countryside. Not knowing where to go, (GPS was a figment of someone’s imagination and a flip phone was a phone booth along the road that got hit by a car) we would come to an intersection and ask, “Left, right, or straight ahead?”

Which Road?

We had no clue as to what was ahead of us but we wanted to keep going. We would do this for hours. We got to see countryside that the traveler never would see. On one occasion, as the dirt road became very narrow, we were presented with a shallow stream running across the road. We stopped. We saw that the road went through the stream and there were tire tracks on the other side.

Left, upstream. Right, downstream. Straight ahead, cross the stream. Or back? We knew where we came from. Upstream would be tough without a paddle. Downstream would be easy but we would only go where the stream took us. Straight ahead would give us new territory to explore.

Over the years, we all come to crossroads and we must decide left, right, back or forward. These can be tough decisions but a fifth option may be the worst…do nothing. Failure to make a decision is a decision. When we were on those back roads in central Illinois, not making a decision would leave us in the middle of the road. We could be struck by another vehicle, (likely a tractor or horse) or simply starve on the spot.

When we opt not to make a decision, or when we elect to stay where we are, life and all that it puts before us, good or bad, will still be there. We are attending life instead of participating. We are a spectator rather than a player. So long as we are willing to make a decision, left, right, straight or back, we are a player. We are in the driver’s seat. When we fail to make that decision, we are just a spectator, waiting in the middle of the road for something to happen…good or bad.

Over the past 50+ years, we have come upon many crossroads. We still ask the question, “left, right, straight?” There are more than 100 restaurants within a five mile radius of our home, yet when we go out for a bite, no one can predict where we will finally have dinner.

Worst case was, after deferring the decision and discussing our respective day’s activity, we found ourselves 30 miles from home at the Alabama border. We laughed and turned around to get back where we could find someplace for dinner.

Now we were only a few blocks from home, still without a decision on where to eat and a novel idea surfaced. Let’s go to Publix, get some chicken and go home and watch a movie. Ninety minutes, 100 restaurants and 60 miles later, we ended up with a box of chicken and a movie. Not making a decision is a decision.

Last week, we made a great right turn. We decided to go to the mountains to see the leaves. Although we planned to go in one direction, we came to an intersection with a sign, “Tiger.” We turned right.

For nearly an hour, the road weaved up and down through the hills and valleys. A beautiful red, orange and yellow canopy accompanied most of the road. Finally, the canopy opened and we saw the valley leading to Tiger Mountain.

We chose left and stopped at a little vineyard. We had no idea how important that left turn would be. The owner’s daughter greeted us. She was excited about their vineyard and shared how her mom and dad had started it on the nearly two hundred year old family homestead. The old barn and silo had been renovated and was now a quaint restaurant overlooking the vineyard.

We were having breakfast when mom and dad came down for their lunch. Mom was a journalist, author and lawyer. Dad was a physician. We were strangers but for some reason (making the right turn) they shared their story. Their story was so inspiring. Both were professionals who had come to a crossroad. Left? Right? Straight? Back?

They chose straight. They chose new territory building with new knowledge and past experiences. They were humble people with a vision. They were passionate people with a dream. They were focused and committed. Had we not come to the mountain crossroad and turned right, we would never have met them. We would not have heard their story.

But their story of pursuing a dream is one that many people have in their hearts. They come to that crossroad and they can’t make the decision. They stop and life passes them by. In the book, “It’s Not What I Know…It’s How I Learned It,” the author talks about coming to crossroads and making the tough decisions.

Dreams…Goals…Vision…Passion…Commitment. These are the ingredients that turn dreams into reality. These are the ingredients for success. But it all depends on what we say when we come to the crossroad. Left? Right? Straight? Back?

Be the player and not the spectator. The game goes on regardless. Be the driver and not the passenger. The journey goes on and there will always be a crossroad. Left? Right? Straight? Back?

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go. – T S Elliot

Make a decision. Make it a great day.

Dr L