Saturday, April 28, 2012

Character Traits

Our local county launched a Community of Character Campaign several years ago where every month a Character Trait is announced and citizens who exhibit the best examples of this trait in their personal lives are recognized.  Some examples of these traits are honesty, respect, patience, and humility  to name a few. The program is highlighted in all the schools, making the students aware of all the positive Character Traits. At least one local school names a student and teacher each month who best represent the Character Traits and posts their names on the school's sign.

That got me thinking. As I was growing up, I had many adults who taught me the value of these "Character Traits" along the way.  Some lessons came easily, some were a little more painful. I think the best lesson I had in respect was the summer I had to learn the Presbyterian Catechism with my Granny. The many times (even at age 8) I wanted to tell her what I thought of that dab blamed little pink book and what she could do with the Catechism, I knew better, I had respect for her because she was my elder.  Although, to this day, I can still feel the pain of that summer.

My Daddy taught me patience with his lessons in the game of chess. If you are unfamiliar with the game, think of it as a cerebral medieval contest of watching paint dry. My kindergarten teacher, "Miss" Nancy taught all of us generosity. In her class we shared everything. That was a lesson we learned early on from the first day of class. 

My parents instilled honesty in me from day one. However, if there was ever any question about it, my sixth grade teacher, Miss Hungerpeller, made it stick. She was a former WAVE from WWII and would stand in front of the class with a ruler in her right hand pointing it at us reminding us of the school's honor code and how it should apply to us not only in school but in our lives. Our response was a quick and loud "Yes Mam." (As if anyone wanted to be on her wrong side) For years, every time I thought of doing something dishonest just the thought of Miss Hungerpeller and her ruler made me reconsider.

But the most effective lesson of these traits was my lesson in humility.   When I was 15 and got my driver's license, although they could have afforded something much nicer, my parents presented me with a 1973 AMC Gremlin to drive. And, to make sure I maintained my humbleness, this impressive coupe had no air conditioning, an AM radio, and a stick shift. (And, yes, I had this car until I got married.)

To this day, that car is a topic of discussion when I run into my high school and college friends. It may not have been popular, but it was memorable. And, so were all the lessons of character I learned through the years. Although, I still get hives at the thought of that little pink book.

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