As the Twig is Bent

My wife Sandra and I are blessed to live in a Woodstock neighborhood with some of the nicest neighbors in the world. One particular family stands out.

When they moved into our neighborhood 13 years ago, they brightened our doorstep before we could brighten theirs. The husband barreled into our house like he was a long-lost best friend, and his wife followed with homemade chocolate chip cookies. From that moment on, we knew we had good neighbors and life-long friends.

For a while, they tried to have a baby with no success. Then one evening, we learned they were pregnant. Later that year, their daughter was born.

This baby girl is now not quite a teenager. What’s been most interesting to observe over the years is how they’ve helped shape their daughter’s moral compass. For instance, this past Election Day, the family drove past me at 6:15 a.m. as I was jogging. They slowed to ask if I was voting that day. It turned out they were on their way to vote as a family, a tradition started a few years ago. Their daughter was going with Mom and Dad to experience the thrill and fulfill the obligation of casting their ballots for president.

This young lady is also remarkably in tune with helping others. Recently, we had missionaries on leave from Iraq staying in our home. One afternoon, I came in from work and found an envelope lying on the kitchen counter containing $34 and change. I asked Sandra where it came from. She said our neighbor’s daughter brought the money over to give to our missionary friends.  It seems that each week her parents have her put a portion of her allowance away as “God money.”  She’s free to give this money to any good cause she finds around her. She felt strongly that our missionary friends needed her “God money” to help the Syrian refugees.

Just last week, she rode up on a new bicycle. She was so excited I thought she was going to burst. I commented to her parents about how happy she was that they bought her a new bike. They explained that their daughter had to earn a large portion of the bike’s cost by saving her allowance and doing extra chores.

Character, compassion and love for others are not something we can teach our children through lectures, scolding or reprimand. It is what they see us do each and every day that matters most. It is how we behave in front of them that creates lasting impressions and molds their ethos. As my Sunday school teacher often reminds us, “Very early on, kids stop listening to what we say and instead, they do what they see us do.”

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I have a suspicion that someday, this young lady may lead a mighty movement. Perhaps she will be a missionary, a special needs teacher or pediatrician. One thing is for sure, she is a living example of my grandmother’s favorite expression:  “As a twig is bent, so grows the tree.”

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