It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m grateful for the moral compass my parents helped create in me. How lucky I am that they said “no” and taught me to work. How fortunate that they took me to church, instilled high values, expressed disappointment when my behavior required it.
I wasn’t always an easy kid. I had my grumpy, uncooperative days. And surprising info to a few of you, I had some seriously rebellious teen years which, even at the time, I felt guilty about because I knew better. But some independent dingbat streak in me insisted I was smarter than someone who had lived longer than me and didn’t really understand the world. (Boy, was I wrong.) Luckily for me the dumb choices I made that were way off course from the compass readings I’d been taught didn’t result in anything permanently disastrous.
A Global Positioning System, or GPS as most of us know them as, is just a fancy compass. Not much thought goes into using one. Punch in an address and it tells you how to get there, usually. Ask for the nearest pizza joint and you’ll get a few choices, complete with locations, and phone numbers. Select one and it’ll draw a route you can follow that will find you noshing on some melting cheese and sausage in no time at all.
I’ve heard more than a few stories from friends who tried to follow the directions of a GPS with what could have been disastrous results. Turn right fifty feet then proceed forward one mile to your destination on the left. If they had faithfully followed the GPS they’d have driven off a cliff, or into oncoming traffic on a one-way street, or into a stream bed or a field. You’ve heard the stories, too.
Fortunately I have map reading skills and can tell when Google Maps has led me astray, usually. I did once take a forty mile short cut on a very bumpy dirt road when I could have gone an extra mile before turning off the highway and had a paved road to follow in half the distance and even less time.
Some of the things I see going on around me, close up and personal, as well as out in the world, make me wonder what’s happened to teaching kids about right and wrong, good and bad, stupid and intelligent, reason and insanity. I worry when I see parents turn over the teaching of basic character to the schools in programs that claim to instill things like “Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, Citizenship.” Instead I see a parenting mantra of “whatever.”
What I see makes me even more grateful for what my parents gave me. They taught me much more than trustworthiness, they taught me honesty. They taught more than respect, they taught manners and honor and obedience. They gave me responsibility so I could feel what integrity felt like. They raised me with siblings where life wasn’t always fair, but I learned to share and understand that it felt good to care about others and to help out when I could. They voted, they volunteered, they brought me along to serve the community and from that I learned what being a good citizen meant.
Sadly, we’re raising a generation of kids that have little to no moral compass. Kids whose only direction is me-centered, me-based, me-motivated. That is a GPS with no satellite feed. If you doubt me just look at the news from the past week or two for a few minutes. The violence alone is enough to scare a person into becoming a hermit in a place with no known GPS coördinates available and no roads.
Lucky for me, my brain cells and my personal compass of moral integrity kicked in before I ruined my life or someone else’s life. Lucky for me my parents gave me all the tools to gain and use such a valuable compass.
Thanks Mom and Dad, for teaching me, for providing a moral compass, for not giving up. Thank you for the solid path I finally found myself on.