Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way ;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.
From A Psalm of Life
by H. W. Longfellow
I had a great Saturday planned. I had been looking forward to it for weeks. My husband would be working all day, but the children and I had a full schedule of enjoyable weekend activities. It was the final day of the Farmer’s Market. The Native American Festival promised crafts, costumes, and culture. I even had saved a little money to take the children out to eat. It would be a memorable and educational day.
I walked down the stairs at the hour of departure, expecting to find four children dressed and ready to rush out the door. Instead, chores were undone and faces were cross. I heaved a sigh, reminding the four that work comes before play. As they hastily cleaned up their messes I spied pages under the kitchen table. Bending over to pick them up, I found the remains of one of our “early reader” books, completely torn apart.
When I inquired what happened, it became apparent that half of the children were just as surprised as I was to find the book in such a state. The other two, however, became involved in a contest of finger-pointing, accusation, and shouting that quickly made clear exactly what had happened to the book.
After silencing the criminals, I calmly pointed out the laws broken in this case.
~ Parents are not honored if their property is destroyed rather than cared for (fifth commandment).
~ The sixth commandment “teaches us to avoid anger and injury to others” according to their catechism.
~ When we break something and do not replace it, we commit theft and break the eighth commandment.
~ Blaming is bearing false witness, the ninth commandment.
~ Refusal to share (the root of the argument of the book, which ended in the book being torn asunder) demonstrates covetousness – a violation of the tenth commandment.
By the time I had simply run down this list calmly and quietly, the two guilty parties were sobbing freely and begging forgiveness of me and each other. They pledged to buy a new book (very difficult to do on a quarter-a-week allowance) and to guard against such happenings again. It was a somber group that loaded up into the van and headed out for the day’s festivities.
The sun came out for us as we chose our fruit at the Farmer’s Market and said goodbye to our weekly friends. We cheerfully jumped back into my trusty van for the long drive to the Native American festival, full of anticipation for a fun day, when I backed into the car beside me.
Four pairs of eyes widely turned directly upon me and the van became silent as all waited to see what Mommy would do now.
First, I sobbed.
Then, I called their Daddy to tell him what I had done.
Next, we waited for the owner to return. I could leave a note, but I could not think what to say, and I kept crying on the piece of paper my son handed me.
Finally, a couple walked up purposefully to the car and jumped in. I walked up to the driver, and one of my sons jumped out to accompany me as I confessed my fault.
Teaching character hurts.
Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant !
Let the dead Past bury its dead !
Act,— act in the living Present !
Heart within, and God o’erhead !