Does your community undergird or undermine your role as a parent?
It doesn’t take much effort or energy to find examples of bad behavior in our society. Turn on the television, surf the Internet, pickup the daily newspaper. Because “noise makes news” our kids are regularly assaulted by images and stories that contradict Judeo-Christian values and just plain common decency. We lament how communities no longer hold kids accountable like they once did. How often we find ourselves bemoaning the loss of heroes and colorful characters in our communities to whom our children might look to for guidance and even accountability.
We’re told they’re rare—maybe a dying breed, their stories only found on the pages of tattered Reader’s Digest magazines. Do they really still exist? They do. My wife and son Trent met one in the checkout line of WAL-MART the other day.
Jean was approaching the cashier, her basket full of groceries, when Trent grabbed a candy bar from the rack beside the register. “I’m sorry, but no,” she told him, reaching for the snack to return it to the display. “You’ve had enough sweets for today.”
First, he hadn’t asked permission—and second, we try our best to feed the boys a nutritionally balanced diet . . . even though I keep hoping the FDA will declare the dark chocolate Milky Way or Kit Kat to be an excellent source of antioxidants and maybe even part of the new dietary pyramid.
Trent was perturbed, irritated that he wasn’t going to get his way. “No!” he hollered, “but I want it!” His voice was rising, the tears beginning to flow freely. A full scaled tantrum was unfolding in checkout lane #8.
Suddenly, a muscular uniformed man approached the cart. He was a member of the U.S. Army, his patches and camouflage making clear his loyalties and service affiliation. With his stern look, closely cropped hair and angular jaw, Jean wasn’t sure what to expect. Calmly but firmly he addressed the teary-eyed Trent.
“Son,” he barked, “it’s disrespectful to speak to your mother that way. That’s unacceptable! Be a young man with good manners! Be a gentleman!” As quickly as he approached, he turned on his heels and left. Trent’s mouth hung open like a dead brook trout. He was stunned, but now paying attention. And eager to obey.
I’m not likely to meet this man. Jean never got his name, but I’m grateful he stepped in for me and said what I would if I had been there myself. He did what once was normal in our culture, teaching children to respect their parents.
Of course, it’s not always appropriate to chastise a stranger’s kid. We need to use discretion and common sense. During a flight several years ago, a passenger wagged his finger at one of our boys and accused him of kicking his seat. I had watched Troy the entire time and the man was mistaken. He had clearly overstepped his authority. But in many situations, it would be reassuring to enjoy the positive reinforcement of men and women who share the values and standards we hold up for emulation. If you see an opportunity, I’d encourage you to prayerfully take it. Do it with respect and the right heart.
So, my thanks to the mystery warrior in WAL-MART—and to all those who are willing to help our kids with an instructive or encouraging word.