Over the past few years, our county government has built roundabouts on a number of thoroughfares in the area where I live. The idea behind these circles in the middle of well -traveled roads was to replace stop signs and improve traffic flow. Were our county leaders trying to copy Washington DC’s Dupont Circle and Thomas Circle, which handle a great amount of traffic fairly well each day? Perhaps so. Ours aren’t as elaborate as the ones in DC, however, but they’re working very well. To date, we have six of them, and I have yet to see or hear of a traffic accident at any one of them.
The circles have become a normal part of the transportation pattern in our area. Some out-of-town visitors of mine found them quite remarkable. Their success may be because drivers obey the sign posted in bold letters at the entrance to each circle: YIELD TO THE TRAFFIC IN THE CIRCLE. And it seems we drivers have mastered the art of yielding. As we approach a circle, we anticipate oncoming traffic and pace ourselves to be able to accommodate another vehicle. Sometimes we have to stop completely because another driver or two entered ahead of us. Good sense and good manners have prevailed—so far.
Yiedling to a fellow citizen at the roundabouts can teach us the value of yielding to others elsewhere. Speech communicators tell us to be conscious of the person to whom we’re speaking, making sure we give them the “right of way” to express their viewpoint. We can prevent lingtuistic collision if we refrain from speaking when the other person has started to speak. We avoid getting into the verbal circle when they have already entered, thus making for smooth—and indeed pleasant— flow of conversation.
Sometimes we grownups are like children on the playground at the swings or on the slide. “I was here first,” one may yell and try to unseat another. That’s what happens at times when one individual floats an idea and is tempted to be opinionated or insist on being heard above everyone else. But it’s essential to recognize that others have opinions too and have a right to be allowed to express them even if we disagree with what they are saying. We must respect their views and allow them to have their say. Instead of barging ahead, trying to win an argument, we can slow down and be willing to yield, to hear what the other person is trying to say. We may even learn something when we do.
Nobody has time to stand around watching cars move through a traffic circle, but it might be an instructive exercise to do so. The circle tells us that living in community is valuable, and that cooperating and thinking of others is the better way. We are living in divided times–in a divided nation. The simple symbol of the smooth-moving traffic in the circle tells us that less focus on self and more on others aids unity, provides a sense of connectedness, and adds a satisfying dimension to life. Yielding to others, whether in the public square, in the workplace, at home, or in the church, has the potential for bringing about beneficial, healing results.
I have never seen a driver stop at the entrance to a circle to argue with the driver of an oncoming vehicle saying, “I was here first. You need to let me go ahead of you.” That would be ludicrous. Why then do we allow ourselves to take the me-first stand so many times instead of letting the harmony of life prevail in our circle? We can experience change if we remind ourselves often of the Apostle Paul’s caution to us “not to think of [ourselves] more highly than [we] ought to think” (Romans 12:3). Keeping his words in mind will help us remember to yield to others and, in our own small way, promote togetherness in the circle of life.
“Human beings yield in many situations, even
important and spiritual and central ones….”
“Be like water which is fluid and soft and yielding, as
in time water will overcome rock, which is rigid and
hard. Therefore,what is soft is strong.”