STOP-LIGHT Moments: When the Scenic Route Makes Sense

Oakland SchoolsWHEN DEALING with drivers amped on Starbucks, checking texts and lane-bombing to exit at Chrysler Headquarters is simply too much, I opt for the scenic route to Oakland Schools.

Pontiac, the heart of my scenic route, is what many people driving through would consider on the edge of unfortunate circumstances. A little depressing, I thought, the first time my phone GPS’d me “the fastest route” through back streets and empty lots and boarded-up housing.

Definitely not where I’d stop for a donut to-go.

I kept my eyes on the road.

Gradually, as my slower-paced drives through Pontiac became more familiar, I began to notice the points ‘in-between’ that I regularly overlooked in my hurry to get to work and get back home again. Waiting for red lights to turn green gave me lots of moments to look more closely at what I’d been ignoring. I grabbed my cell-phone camera when I realized what had been hiding in plain sight, and snapped quick photos while parked at traffic stops.

I noticed buildings that might have seen better times, but still carried the dash and dignity of Detroit’s heyday on the north end of Woodward back in the twenties and thirties.

Jean MacLeodI noticed the same man in a checked, flannel shirt occupying the same stool in a small coffee-shop every morning, usually bantering with the guy in the apron behind the counter.

I noticed a church glowing through a grubby parking lot with a sign proudly proclaiming “TRIUMPH” hung above its front door.

Jean MacLeodI noticed two people laboriously cleaning up a small yellow-brick building I had previously photographed, and wondered with real interest what kind of start-up business they were opening.

Jean MacLeodAND, near the train tracks crossing Woodward, I noticed a tiny, unprepossessing shop advertising “gourmet” donuts. One day I stopped, got out of my car and went inside to foodie heaven

What are you missing on your rush from point A to point B?

Are you ignoring the jewels? Are your assumptions misplaced? Did you drive BY THE DONUTS?!

Maybe red stop-lights and moments of urban mindfulness can also help us zero in on what our stressed-out, big picture view at work and in the classroom often overlooks. Maybe our phone-cams can help us capture, frame and focus on what beleaguered school districts and struggling students need us to understand:

Where there are signs of life, there is hope – and defying our expectations, even Triumph.

Sometimes we need that reminder.

Oakland Schools


Pontiac photos and text by Blog Editor Jean MacLeod, Communications/Oakland Schools

Cover image via Shutterstock


 Oakland Schools • 2111 Pontiac Lake Road • Waterford, MI 48328-2736 • 248.209.2000


  1. Deb Campbell · · Reply

    Thank you for reminding us to not be afraid to slow down and really “see”. If you can’t find anything positive to reflect on, you aren’t looking!

    1. “If you can’t find anything positive to reflect on, you aren’t looking” – You are so right, Deb! Thank you for your comment.

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