On special Friday afternoons, Alex and Lauren look forward to when Uncle Mikee comes to take them for a short ride. Uncle Mikee wears a pony tail, drives a little yellow convertible, puts on tefillin and tells special stories.
"Here he comes, Alex!" yells Lauren, as she spots the yellow car from the front window. "Quick! Go get the orange juice and the cups."
Uncle Mikee chooses a different place to visit every time, but doesn't drive too far because he wants to make sure everyone is home before sundown for Shabbat candlelighting. This time he parks at a tiny railroad station and together they walk to a wooden gazebo to watch arriving trains.
Just as Lauren pours the orange juice, the railroad crossing bell starts to clang, the warning signs flash on — and — off, as the automatic white bars come down across the road, stopping traffic. The warning signs flash: STOP! LOOK! and LISTEN!
"Did you guys ever think that those flashing safety signs are sort of Shabbat signs?" asks Uncle Mikee.
"Uh! Oh!" Alex and Lauren think. "Uncle Mikee must have another special story to tell."
"They are?" they chime.
"Yes!. Just as the warning signs direct people to think about an oncoming train, those same words, STOP! LOOK! and LISTEN! prepare people for the oncoming Shabbat."
"They do?" the kids question.
"Yep! STOP! says relax and step back from doing the buys things that you do all week, like going to school or going to work. It's a time to step on your brakes and slow down your choo choo."
"Never thought of that," whispers Alex.
"And the next word of advice is LOOK!. After you slow down and stop, it suggests you look around and see where you've been heading all week and where you'd like to go during the next week of your life."
"What do you mean, Uncle?" asks Lauren.
"Well, perhaps you're taking ballet lessons and would rather learn to play the clarinet. Or, if you play soccer and just play to win, perhaps you'd enjoy learning more about the history of the game, like where it all started and in what major countries it's played."
"Gee! Uncle," Alex pipes up. "I always wanted to learn more about trees. Last week our teacher told us about a scientist and his friends in the rain forest of Brazil labeling every tree. She said there were about a million bazillion varieties."
"Wowee! Alex!" Uncle Mikee replies. "And if you keep on looking, you're sure to find and appreciate more and more of what God has created. All worthwhile learning is Torah and all the good things that you do with learning makes you a better person."
Suddenly, it is very quiet in the gazebo. No one even swallows.
Finally, Lauren asks, "What about the LISTEN! sign?"
"That's the most important word because there are two ways to listen: one is to listen with your ears, like most of us do, and the other is to listen with your heart and hear the peace of Shabbat."
"The peace of Shabbat, Uncle? How can a person hear something that doesn't make a sound?"
"Good question, Lauren. How many times have you thought: 'my brother is unhappy or my Daddy is worried.' Now, they didn't tell you that with words you can hear. You heard their inner hearts with your heart because a heart at peace is sensitive. It can listen and it can hear. and that's what STOP! LOOK! and LISTEN! signs are all about."
"They're about slowing down, about looking left and right at where you are going and about paying attention to what you see. At fifty-five miles per hour, you can't possibly see the multicolors of butterfly wings or the eyes of people who are sad. Nor all the beautiful things that God has given us to touch, to love and to see."
The ride home was very quiet.