The best classroom for learning character is life itself. Unfortunately, we are often too busy to pay all that much attention to it. In those moments we, along with our kids and grandkids, can miss a life-changing, golden moment.
Those opportunities have a short shelf-life.
I can still clearly remember a day when a lesson in outstanding character happened right in from of me. Since I couldn’t get away, I had to attend to it.
Frozen in Fear
I was in a line of cars waiting to merge into traffic from a shopping center parking lot. A woman at the head of the line obviously was fearful and uncertain about getting into the traffic.
She sat frozen in her automobile. Everyone was letting her know about it, too: Honk! Honk! Honk!
I probably was just an instant away from joining that chorus when the driver directly behind her jumped out of his vehicle and stepped into the street. He halted the oncoming motorists, and then motioned for her to get into the traffic safely. Problem solved.
Honestly, getting out of my car and helping her never occurred to me in that moment. I don’t know if his kind, effective gesture was noticed by anyone else, but that scene has been alive in my memory ever since.
A Part of the Solution
That moment could not have taken more than 40 seconds, but it represented a life-long lesson. If I ever encounter a situation like it in the future, I now know how to be a part of the solution instead of one of the herd piling up on the problem.
Unfortunately, I was alone in my car that day. If my son or daughter (or any one of my subsequent grandchildren) had been with me, observing that young man and what he did to solve the problem, it would have been a teachable moment like none other. Oh, I told them about it later, but it wasn’t the same as being there. But I do hope I was able to encourage them to be more mindful of moments just like that one.
But that’s the same message for all of us, isn’t it? For the sake of ourselves and our families, it pays to be more even more mindful of what’s happening in our lives and the role it asks of us. There will always be a place for those choosing to handle frustration with presence, grace and solution-driven insight.
These folks become professors in the Character Classes of Life.
Psychologist Dr. James Sutton, is the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network. This story is from his latest book, Improving a Youngster’s Self-Esteem, revised (available for immediate ebook download). www.DocSpeak.com
Illustration by Sergio Garzon