Honoring Character when it is in low supply.
As an educator, teaching character is one of the most important things that I do. I believe it is one of the most significant end products of a good education. In today’s climate, it is difficult to make the case for the importance of good character, when all around us people who are supposed to be our leaders are demonstrating poor character and mocking the good character in others.
Each of us lives in a box of our own experience or choosing. How we each got in our box varies by individual. Some of us made poor decisions. Others may have had negative events happen to us through no fault of our own. Still others may have worked very hard to create the best box imaginable. Many people have had opportunities that have allowed them to build a good box. Other people have managed to build wonderful boxes by making their own opportunities. For some the quality of the box is measured by the number of dollars one has amassed to put in the box. A great space or a challenged space, our box is still our comfort zone.
No matter how wonderful the box, a person should not stay within those confines. The number of windows and doors in that box will determine the quality of our lives. Coming out of our box helps to build character. The more we explore beyond our box we see the character of others and that everyone is a variation of ourselves.
People with good character have a moral core. That moral core does not belong to any one faith. Indeed, it may not be a part of any organized faith at all. We need to see other human beings as people who have wants and needs just as we do. Who, on some scale, struggle to achieve the same things- good health, safety (physical and emotional), food, shelter and freedom to become whatever our talents lead us to. We must see and respect the kernel of dignity in all of us.
In the middle of the night, when fear is often rearing its ugly head, we all need a hand to hold; whether that hand is physically present or figuratively present in some special relationship. It is something that cannot be purchased. It is earned by the good character that creates connections with others. We may think that power is important; that character does not matter. But power has a very short shelf life. Character is enduring. If you ignore the circumstances of others because of your vaulted position, what kind of person are you?
We must teach our children to reach out to a hand that may be trembling. The time may come when that trembling hand is yours and you will be grateful to whomever provides comfort to you.