Posts Tagged With: character

A World of #cultureofcharacter

Before the housing bubble implosion, I worked with a real estate appraiser as an apprentice. My boss and I drove in her new hybrid car to Las Vegas for an appraisers convention.

I wouldn’t describe the drive as scenic. Far from it. The one highlight I remember appeared in a yard just on the outskirts of a tiny town that boasted life-sized rusty metal sculptures of animals, a giraffe being the most memorable.

Vegas was meh. I’m not a big fan.

Here’s where the story gets interesting.

By Matt Lavin from Bozeman, Montana, USA [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Pretty much this was the view. By Matt Lavin from Bozeman, Montana, USA [CC-BY-SA-2.0) via Wikimedia Commons

On the way home from Vegas, about forty-five miles either way to a town, in the middle of desert and sagebrush, my boss looked at her gas gauge, gasped and said, “We forgot to get gas before leaving Vegas!” She all but slammed on the brakes mid road.

I leaned over to look at the gauge, thinking she was overreacting and saw the needle pointed solidly at the “Empty” side.

“Oh, crap,” I replied. Or something along those lines.

Nowadays, you’d just whip out your smart phone, find the nearest gas station and turn around or head forward. Or your car tells you how many miles you have left before you run out of gas.

All we had eight years ago was a map book, a cell phone and no cell coverage. We weren’t really sure where on the map we were. We’d also, apparently brought along some overconfidence it had just flown out the window.

My boss wanted to turn around and go back. I voted we keep moving forward. Either way we were surely going to run out of gas in the middle of nowhere, in the heat. And when we ran out of gas we’d be on a two lane road with almost no shoulder.


A few miles ahead we pulled into a sad excuse for a rest area. “Better to stop here, than be stuck on the side of the road,” my boss explained. There was one other car parked there. “I’m going to go have a chat with the person in that car,” she said as she climbed out.

My boss never shied away from a situation, but I thought she might be pushing her luck. She talked for about five minutes. When she got back in the car here’s the story she told me.

The person in the car was a younger woman. She was at the rest area because it was a half-way point between where her ex-husband dropped off her son at her Dad’s place and her home near Vegas. Her Dad drove her son to the rest area and that’s where mom and child reunited.

The young woman said her Dad owned a tow-truck but he’d probably be just in his regular car and that he could go get gas and bring it back to us after he dropped her son off.

That’s doable. We’d survive. Yay!

Still it’d be a long time waiting in the car in the desert. I got out, wandered around. Sitting in the partial shade on a rickety over-painted picnic table, the wind sucking the moisture out of my skin, I wished for Star Trek transporter technology and wondered what my kids were doing.

We sat waiting another half-hour or so when in pulls a tow-truck.

Not the actual tow truck, just a photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Not the actual tow truck, just a photo from Wikimedia Commons.


The truck pulled up next to the other car and the young woman hops out, gets a huge hug from a cute little blond boy and then hefts him on her hip as she chats with the guy behind the steering wheel. She points over at us, talks a bit more and then puts her son in her car. As the tow-truck pulls past us she walks over and says, “That’s my Dad. He decided to drive the tow-truck today. Lucky, huh? He’s just going to turn around and back in, then you can just drive up to the ramp, he’ll winch the car on, lock ‘er down and he’ll give you a ride to the gas station.”


Lucky, huh?

Felt like more than luck. Felt like hitting the jackpot.

Apparently, we’d stopped about sixty miles from the nearest gas station. Glad my boss had pulled over. Turned out she wasn’t nuts, just inspired.

And the tow-truck driver? Nice guy, pleasant to chat with. He hadn’t had a lot of business lately and thought maybe if he drove the truck, even though it cost more in gas to drive it without a call to respond to, he might get lucky and run into someone who needed a tow or get a call while on the road. “Every little bit helps,” he said.

And yet, as he dropped us off right in front of a gas pump, he refused to accept the money my boss offered him. “I was in the area and I’m just glad I could help you ladies out today.” And off he drove, into the sunset, every bit a knight in shining armor. It wasn’t really sunset, but that’s how I chose to remember it anyway.

A person of character and class? Absolutely.

People like that restore my faith in the human race. It happens more often than we hear about.

I’d like to hear about it more.

What do they call that? Random Acts of Kindness? Tender Mercies? Karma? Grace? Charity? Selflessness?

Whatever name you give it the effect remains the same. Troubles alleviated, hearts lifted, humanity redeemed a little more.


I have a friend who tweets #cultureofcharacter followed by a description of kind acts and observations. I’d love for that to go viral. Wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t it be something to log on and see a massive list at the end of every day of things people saw or did or heard about that showed class and character in the actions and words of the people around them?

Small moves, tiny acts, they make all the difference in a world run amok.

It’s certainly works that way in my world.

How about yours?

I’ll be watching for your tweets.

This book will surprise you. It's where the phrase "culture of character" originated.

This is where the phrase “culture of character” originated.

#cultureofcharacter: an idea from the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

Categories: good ideas, Hope, People, The World | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Moral GPS


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.”

Apparently GPS doesn't work so hot in Manhattan.

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.

hiking trail in coloradoI think sometimes we fail to plug in our own personal compass or engage our brains in the process of figuring out where we’re going and what we’re doing and what the choices are that we’re making.

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.

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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