SPOKANE, Wash - We spend much of our lives looking down. Down at our phones, down at the road - down on ourselves. So, we may not notice the signs of hope and humanity all around us.
Anyone who drives past one of three Golden Rule Brake locations has probably seen the messages on the marquee. Maybe they've made you smile, maybe they've made you think. But, have they ever made you wonder where the inspirational adages come from?
"I put them up and people stop and ask me where I'm getting them from," Javier Noriega told us from his perch on the roof on Golden Rule's North Monroe location. Noriega is the messenger; Dallas Low is the mastermind.
"That's the perfect word for it," Low joked. "Yes, I'm the mastermind behind this."
In reality, the tradition of inspirational signs pre-dates Low. He believes his dad must have started it when he owned the business decades ago. Golden Rule Brake has served the Spokane community since Low's grandfather and brother started it in 1954. The signs are as much a part of their tradition as the catchy jingle on the radio.
"You know, these signs are a way we can positively impact the community in a way that just fixing your brakes or fixing your suspension doesn't do," Low said.
For the last year, we've stopped by every few weeks to watch the messages change with the seasons. They're the same on each of Golden Rule's locations - one message for each side. They're profoundly simple, often deeply relevant and necessarily succinct.
"Sometimes, I want to say something and I just can't say it quite right because I know I don't have the space to do it," Low explained.
Low keeps a file and tries not to repeat a phrase. Sometimes, customers bring in ideas on handwritten sheets of paper. He never knows when inspiration for next week's message might strike.
"Sometimes my pastor at church will say something and I'll pull out my phone and make a note," Low laughed. "My kids are like, 'Dad, get off your phone!'"
Everyone, it seems, has a favorite. Low likes a phrase that allows him to share his Christian faith. Noriega, the man charged with placing the letters in exactly the right order week after week, remembers one in particular.
"One said, If you want peace, surrender your sword," he remembered. "That was pretty cool."
But, as Low has learned, not every message is a hit.
"I put up a message once [that said] If attacked by a mob of clowns, go for the juggler," Low said, having no idea the fallout that was coming next. "I got this blazingly hot two-pager from a juggler in town who did not appreciate the inciting of violence towards the juggling community."
"I get in trouble when I try to be funny."
Whether it's laughter, anger or a reason to pause and think, the signs are more than just words on a marquee. Sometimes, getting people to think or feel starts with getting them to see. It's a reminder that, even in this commercial world we live in, people do care and want to connect. You just have to know where to look.