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Sunday, September 12, 2010

When They Do What They're Supposed To

Today I had an extremely proud moment as a father.  Kids don't always do what they should, but today my son did in a great way, and I think he got a great lesson in doing the right thing.

We had a family day together, and as part of it we went to a very large used book store we like to visit.  This store has books of all kinds, as well as DVDs, CDs, and video games.  We were trading in some of our own things we no longer wanted, and planned to use the store credit we earned to each buy a few things.  As my son was looking around, he noticed some money on the ground.  From what he told us later, he saw the "1" and thought it was a $1 bill until he picked it up and discovered that it was a $100 bill.  Now here's the pretty remarkable part.  He's nine years old, and on his own he went up to the counter and told somebody that he found it on the floor.  He didn't keep it.  He didn't even come to find me or my wife.  By himself he decided to take it to someone in the store, and felt comfortable enough doing that.  He knew that the right thing to do was to turn it in and report it, and he knew who he had to go to. 

My wife came and told me about that and the news made me beam.  Apparently the clerk had asked him for his name and address, and told him that if nobody came to claim it within 30 days, it would be his.  A few minutes after this I heard his name on the overhead speakers, asked to come to the front desk.  I thought that perhaps the person had claimed the money and wanted to thank him, perhaps even giving him a little reward.  But no, his day got even better.  The clerk had told the store manager, and the manager was apparently so impressed by his honesty that she gave him a $50 store credit voucher!  And if the money isn't claimed in a month, he still gets that as well!

I went and found my son, gave him a big hug, and told him how proud I was of him for doing the right thing.  One of the life lessons I try to teach my kids is that "when you do bad, bad things happen...when you do good, good things happen."  This has been a philosophy of mine as I try to instill in my children the understanding that actions have consequences, both good and bad.  By choosing how you will act, you can often choose the outcome of events.  Today was a great life lesson for my kids, as my son did the right thing without being told, and was greatly rewarded for it in praise and materially.  With that voucher he was able to get three books and two video games, which was more than he was planning on being able to buy.

The longer I'm a parent, the more I realize how difficult that job is.  You do everything you can to instill the right values and ways of thinking in your kids, hoping that some of it will stick.  My parents did a good job of it, and even though I didn't always agree with them (and sometimes still don't with my father), they definitely taught me right from wrong, and I'm a better man because of my upbringing.  Even though my son is generally a great kid and usually considerate and sweet, today was such a big moment of me realizing that those lessons had really sunk in.