Last week I was playing tennis at a local high school. Despite COVID, classes are meeting everyday at this particular school. A large group of students came out, took off their masks and starting playing pickle ball. My middle-aged team and this more spry group shared the 8 courts peacefully, each court focused on their score, and the game. The teacher blasted music from a speaker, and we all hit, ran, and whooped whenever a good shot was made.
Through the next hour, my eyes would wander over to two students playing each other. They were on the least desirable court, the one closest to us, the old ladies. Gradually, I realized that one, solitary young man was playing a down-syndrome girl. All the other courts had four students each on them playing robust games, and yet, next to us, there were only two.
I mentioned this to my partner who said, “I know! I have been watching them too.” She went on to say, ” That’s how I was in high school. I would be the one to look out for the kids that no one wanted to be with.” She went on to say, “I just don’t know if my own children would be that way. Would they have the courage to go against the grain like that? I just don’t know.”
This is a perfect opportunity, over a slow dinner at home, to talk about forming those critical inner attributes that help us find the most happiness. Set the scene, ask what the teenage boy and the girl, and the other students, might all be thinking. Ask about what courage and compassion look like. Ask your children what the risks are, or how they would handle it. For my friend above, she could talk about how she really felt a responsibility, and wanted to help, and how she acted on that when she was in high school.
This is how we can create mental models, and tell rich stories of the wonderful attributes of Christ. We get to see these traits everyday, in people all around us. If we want our children to know what character looks like, we need to talk about it, a lot.
Class time was over. I waited until this young man walked passed my court, and I thanked him for being such a good example for me. He looked a little startled, probably didn’t want to be seen talking to me, but I had to let him know that I admired what he did.
As we look for these examples of character everyday, we can feel more peaceful and hopeful about the tumult around us. Pointing it out to our children can help make it important in their lives as well so they will have a map on how to live in the very best way.