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Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Cost of Character

By: Stephanie Fink

My two sons and I screeched to a halt and investigated the treasures at Target.  At this particular aisle we found an oasis of clearanced candles. I’m a candle lover with keen olfactory senses, so inexpensive, delicious smelling candles are a cheap thrill! I lifted the sensibly priced luminary hopefuls to my nose.   > Hummm…smells nice, but not a keeper.
Or so I thought.
Approximately 2.032 seconds after I returned the votive candle pack, I heard glass crash.   What was that?  A quick analysis revealed that in one sweeping turn, my big-honkin’-momma-purse knocked them off the shelf and into numerous shards below.  
I shooed my boys away from the jagged circle of destruction and rationalized…Well, they’re on clearance, Target won’t miss em’…this is just an accident, surely they won’t make me pay for them…who puts glass candles on corner aisle shelves…did anyone see this?
My boys stood statue still; their eyes the size of pizza pies.  As I knelt down to pick up the sharp pieces I felt more than just the power of their eyes upon me.  This was not the moment to just get through.  This was the moment to make it count.  One of those don’t-want-it-to-be-but-it- is-what-it-is learning moments.  
How completely inconvenient.
I picked up the remains of my pride and candles and placed them gingerly into my red plastic picnic basket.  Instantaneously, my six year old questioned, “Why are you putting them in your basket Mommy? They’re broken.”
“I know, honey, but it was just an accident.  And accidents happen all the time.” Isn’t that what I tell them when the inevitable milk spill occurs at every meal?
As we trudged toward the checkout lane, I was irritated at having to spend money on something I knew I’d just be throwing out.  I hoped the cashier would somehow get me off the hook with some version of, “Oh don’t worry about this honey, you don’t have to pay for these.” 
But that’s not what happened. 
No, my middle aged cashier gave me something much more valuable than cheap words for cheap candles, “Wow, boys, you have a very honest Mommy.” As the red scanner glowed to register my new candles, my heart illuminated too. 
I could have cried right there.
I want to raise little boys that will grow to be men of character.  When their life appears to be cracked and in pieces, I want them to do the next right thing; to build a life of good choices brick, by brick.  I realized then, that the “character bricks” are cemented when they observe good (or bad) examples.
Former Oklahoma US representative J.C. Watts said it best, “Character is doing the right thing when nobody's looking. There are too many people who think that the only thing that's right is to get by, and the only thing that's wrong is to get caught.”

I’m grateful now that I made that moment “count”.  There have been far too many that I fast-forwarded through because I’d rather compete in another round of spazz-nastics than the character balance beam.  Character always costs something.  Sometimes it costs energy, time and even money. But that day, true to Target’s motto, I “expected more and paid less.” Our character lesson was just a tad over $3.   
Later that year, our then first grade son was peer-voted the first “Star Student” of his class.  The criteria was based on character, character that I believe was strengthened by glass shards that once surrounded average smelling candles.

Steph's writing has appeared in Proverbs 31 Ministry, P31 Woman magazine.  In her free time she can be found encouraging numerous MOPS group in the northern Virginia area on the "Colorful Art of Friendship - Allowing God to Paint the Masterpieces" and MOPS leaders on "Being a Bright Light".

Steph can be found blogging at www.encouragedinheart.org or on Facebook at Stephanie Fink or on her Facebook page Encouraged in Heart - Stephanie Fink.  She loves big hair, big cups of coffee and big bear hugs.

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Anonymous Steph said...

Thank you for the opportunity to be part of this awesome mom community! :-)

July 17, 2011 at 12:39 PM  
Anonymous Do said...

The "life" lessons are always the hardest to teach! Everything that you say and do is watched by not only your own children, but by others as well. Instead of being worried about Big Brother watching, we should be worried about "little brother". That to me seems more important!

July 17, 2011 at 1:19 PM  
Blogger Raejean said...

Thanks for sharing your experience. It's so important that we as parents walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

July 17, 2011 at 1:26 PM  
Anonymous Charlie said...

WOW!!! What a great lesson not missed to the kids!!! Doing 'it' right when someone isn't looking gets lost ALL TO OFTEN!!!
My oldest son found $3.00 on the floor at Michael's, a few years back and thought he hit pay day!! Well along I come to say 'wouldn't you want someone to try and find you if you lost $3.00?'. After talking for a few minutes he deceided to check with the 3 young girls with their Mom in the next asile (they were just in the one we found the $ in). He asked if anyone had dropped some $...the one girls checked her back pocket and had a look of horror on her face!! I'm sure her Mom had told her to 'STOP playing with it or you'll loose it' three hundrend times by the facial expressions. When she said she had lost some $, we asked how much and she quickly said $3.00 confirming our suspisions of the RIGHTFUL owner of the BIG MONEY!! Everyone left with a lesson and a feel good feeling. My son felt proud as I did too!!
About 6 months later in the parking lot of that same Michael's, my two younger sons and I were getting in the car and as I was strapping the car carrier into the car I noticed a man drop something out of his pocket on the sidewalk in front of the car. I asked my middle son to go and pick up what he had dropped, thinking it was garabage and that would be the 'don't litter' lesson of the day. Much to our surprise it was 2 - one hundred dollar bills!!!! My son looked at me and I said qucik catch up with him as I yelled 'I think you dropped something'. He was funny in saying that his wife always tells him to be more careful with his money. He thanked my son and we had a very nice talk on the way home about how helpful he had been to a complete stranger. We alway try to do the right thing even when some devilish voice in the back of your head is screaming to do something else.

July 17, 2011 at 1:29 PM  
Anonymous Mimi said...

Good one! Way to go, mama!!

July 17, 2011 at 5:12 PM  
Anonymous kristen @ Busy Kids = Happy Mom said...

Wow -this is powerful. Thank you for sharing... haven't we all been in this type of situation before? Teaching character by modeling it..priceless!

July 17, 2011 at 5:38 PM  
Blogger Brenda said...

What a great example for your children! Thanks for sharing this story.

July 17, 2011 at 7:36 PM  
Anonymous SueBE said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for being willing to teach your boys this lesson. It will be repaid 100 fold both to you and the community.

July 18, 2011 at 12:58 PM  

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