This I Believe

Jerry - Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Entered on January 30, 2007

Feeling What A Child Learns

I’ve often wondered what I teach my children. Well, to be fair, I guess I wonder what they actually learn. On a fairly recent trip to see my family (a short 2 hour drive), my two boys (age 13 and 10) and I were cruising nicely at 75 mph listening to the latest tunes on the radio and laughing at the reasons some of them were written.

As we flew down the highway, I noticed a car on the side of the highway. I was just able to glance an older gentleman sitting in the front seat.

Now, the debate ensued… “Let’s just get there”. “You should stop; it’s the right thing to do”. “No, no, keep going…” Almost a mile passed-by before I silently cursed to myself and pulled over. The boys looked behind us to see the police cruiser with flashing lights they knew must be there. Instead, the questions started.

We finally reached him. An older gentleman of perhaps 65 or 70, on his way to visit his daughter. In the age of today, he had forgotten his cell phone (God bless him for that). After introductions and viewing the damaged tire, I told him that I had been looking for an opportunity to show the boys how to change a tire and his predicament was a perfect, ready-made lesson.

As we proceeded with organized chaos to change the tire, the man graciously offered us something to drink. The boys politely refused while each managed their assigned duties with determined concentration. Fortunately, the weather was beautiful and the process went smoothly.

Before we left, each of my boys shook his hand. When it came time for me to shake hands and part, he refused to let go. With tears in his eyes, he found it impossible to speak. I smiled and gripped his hand that much harder.

We climbed back into the car and headed on our way. As I looked in the rearview mirror, I noticed that both of my kids were smiling. After watching them for a few moments, I realized that I myself had tears running down my face.

In today’s hectic, technologically-dominated lifestyle, seeing the simple joy in another person’s face, especially of the older generation when proper etiquette and manners meant something, still profoundly effects me. While my father died when I was 17, he and my mother, as well as those around me, were determined to make me believe in helping others, to be polite, to “remember my manners”. Maybe it’s not that hard after all to feel what the boys learn.