Two 14-year-olds, LeGrand and Verl, got ready for a dance and stopped in the school bathroom for one last look at their hair. Another friend, Danny, happened to be in the bathroom and he approached them excitedly: “Hey! My brother has some beer! He said I could bring some friends and come and party with them—what do you think?” LeGrand and Verl looked at each other, and Verl said, “Ok–that sounds fun—ok! I’ll go!”
Classic high school scene. Kind of. But wait–
The boys looked at LeGrand expectantly. He said, “No, I don’t want to do that.” And he went on to the dance by himself.
Three minus two= one going on alone, by himself. Hard.
LeGrand, who gave the talk in my church last Sunday, went on to say, “That was a crossroads for my two friends. Danny got a girl pregnant his senior year and never graduated. Verl ended up drinking more heavily and died, crashing into a bridge going 100 miles an hour.”
Later, when I told LeGrand how glad I was that he shared that story, he said, “What I didn’t say was all of the hassle I got from Danny, Verl and Danny’s older brother. They went after me for being “a goody-two shoes”. It was miserable! But seeing how their lives turned out, I often think of that choice in the bathroom, and how differently their lives might have been if they had decided not to drink.”
Is life so random, that a chance meeting in a bathroom sets you on a path for drunkenness or being a drop-out? No. Not if you have some preparation for just that moment and you understand the power of consistent, correct choices over time.
LeGrand had the courage to say no, and the grit to withstand the continuing heckling and taunting.
My mother was good at telling me stories like the above one, often. She wanted me to make the right choice and turn my back on what everyone else was doing. I was well prepared in a high school that had few of my faith attending. I remember stammering, red-faced when an older boy said, “Oh, so you don’t drink beer? What can you drink? Milk?” My not drinking came up a lot. But my mother’s stories had given me scaffolding and mental models on what to say every time I was challenged. It was very hard, but I could do it, because she had taught me the why.
How can our children withstand these experiences when they have to stand up for what they believe? How do we help them withstand peer pressure? I previously posted about an inspiring conference talk, here, that also talks about early, spiritual inoculation.
Amazing stories of character will capture your children’s interest and reinforce their inner core and decision making. Your children will cling to your stories of character triumphing over bad choices, as I did. Understanding how important the choice is, is part of every story. That is what character is. Choosing to be better when it’s hard to do, when no one else is doing it. When your children get to see the end of a story, like having to drop out of school or dying in a car crash, they will see why the right choice at a hard time is so critical, even if you are the only one. The only-est one.
What stories of character and choice are you telling your children? Please share!