The Cost of Character

By: Stephanie Fink

My two sons and I screeched toa halt and investigated the treasures at Target.  At this particular aisle we found an oasis of clearancedcandles. I’m a candle lover with keen olfactory senses, so inexpensive,delicious smelling candles are a cheap thrill! I lifted the sensibly pricedluminary hopefuls to my nose.   > Hummm…smells nice, but not a keeper.

Or so I thought.
Approximately 2.032 secondsafter I returned the votive candle pack, I heard glass crash.   What was that?  A quick analysis revealed that in onesweeping turn, my big-honkin’-momma-purse knocked them off the shelf and intonumerous shards below.  
I shooed my boys away from thejagged circle of destruction and rationalized…Well, they’re on clearance, Target won’t miss em’…this is just an accident,surely they won’t make me pay for them…who puts glass candles on corner aisleshelves…did anyone see this?
My boys stood statue still;their eyes the size of pizza pies. As I knelt down to pick up the sharp pieces I felt more than just thepower of their eyes upon me.  Thiswas not the moment to just get through. This was the moment to make it count.  One of those don’t-want-it-to-be-but-it- is-what-it-is learningmoments.  
How completely inconvenient.
I picked up the remains of mypride and candles and placed them gingerly into my red plastic picnic basket.  Instantaneously, my six year oldquestioned, “Why are you putting them in your basket Mommy? They’re broken.”
“I know, honey, but it was justan accident.  And accidents happenall the time.” Isn’t that what I tellthem when the inevitable milk spill occurs at every meal?
As we trudged toward the checkoutlane, I was irritated at having to spend money on something I knew I’d just be throwingout.  I hoped the cashier would somehowget me off the hook with some version of, “Oh don’t worry about this honey, youdon’t have to pay for these.” 
But that’s not whathappened. 
No, my middle aged cashier gaveme something much more valuable than cheap words for cheap candles, “Wow, boys,you have a very honest Mommy.” As the red scanner glowed to register my newcandles, my heart illuminated too. 
I could have cried right there.
I want to raise little boysthat will grow to be men of character. When their life appears to be cracked and in pieces, I want them to do thenext right thing; to build a life of good choices brick, by brick.  I realized then, that the “characterbricks” are cemented when they observe good (or bad) examples.
Former Oklahoma USrepresentative J.C. Watts said it best, “Character is doing the right thingwhen nobody’s looking. There are too many people who think that the only thingthat’s right is to get by, and the only thing that’s wrong is to get caught.”

I’m grateful now that I madethat moment “count”.  There havebeen far too many that I fast-forwarded through because I’d rather compete inanother round of spazz-nastics than the character balance beam.  Character always costs something.  Sometimes it costs energy, time andeven money. But that day, true to Target’s motto, I “expected more and paidless.” Our character lesson was just a tad over $3.   
Later that year, our then firstgrade son was peer-voted the first “Star Student” of his class.  The criteria was based on character,character that I believe was strengthened by glass shards that once surroundedaverage smelling candles.

Steph’s writing has appeared in Proverbs 31 Ministry, P31 Womanmagazine.  In her free time she can be found encouraging numerous MOPSgroup in the northern Virginia area on the “Colorful Art of Friendship- Allowing God to Paint the Masterpieces” and MOPS leaders on “Being aBright Light”.

Steph can be found blogging at www.encouragedinheart.org or on Facebook at Stephanie Fink or on her Facebook page Encouraged in Heart – Stephanie Fink.  She loves big hair, big cups of coffee and big bear hugs.

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