One afternoon my children and I went on a walk to our local library. The library is about one and a half miles from our home. After a great time reading and exploring together in the library, we started our mile and a half walk home.
During the walk one of my small children mentioned he was hungry. It was getting close to dinner time, and would still be a little while before we reached home. When we were about a half way home we passed a home which had a large apple tree growing on the property. The apples on the tree were perfectly ripe and large. My son immediately noticed the treats hanging in view. He said, "Mom, look. We can just have a snack right now to eat on our way home. Those apples would help us not be hungry any more. Can we go pick one? Please?"
My daughter said, "Porter, you know we can't just pick apples that belong to someone else. We have to ask before we can take."
At this point all three children asked me if I would go to the door of the home and ask the person living there if we could pick a few apples for our trip home. I happen to have a history of talking to complete strangers, so my children didn't think it would bother me at all to go up to the home and ask. Even though I didn't want to, I consented.
As I approached the door, I noticed that no car was in the driveway of the carport and that all the blinds were closed. The yard looked ill kept and the home looked almost forgotten sitting there on that lonely road. After I knocked at the door, I looked again at the apple tree. The apples were ready to pick, and all the low branches were full. In fact, the ground below the tree was literally full of rotting apples. I had the feeling that whoever owned that apple tree either didn't care about the apples, or wasn't able to go get them. No one answered the door.
While walking away, my son said, "Mom, since nobody is home and it doesn't look like anyone wants the apples can't we just take a few of them for our walk home? I am really hungry."
All of the sudden, I realized this was my time to show my son an important part of my character. I am the kind of person who stands for something. I wanted him to know standing for something is more important than even hunger, so I said, "Porter, I know you are hungry. We are all hungry, but if we took those apples off of that tree without permission we would be stealing, even if no one wants the apples. Being honest is much more important than having a full tummy or a tasty treat. Being honest gives you power. Today we are going to have the power to walk by these apples and then other days we will have the power to walk by other things we shouldn't do either. We will start having power right now."
Porter liked the idea of having power. He said, "Mom, it is too bad that those apples will all go rotten, but I am glad that we are an honest family, aren't you?"
Standing for something important, like character or integrity, is powerful. This kind of power is the power we need to change the world to be a better place. Our society is sick. People seem to be perfectly fine with stealing 'apples,' or anything else, to get ahead. As parents, we can change the tide. We can make powerful people; the kind of people who respect and love before they think of themselves. Just like my apple experience, to raise these kinds of children, we must be the example of good character and integrity first. "Integrity is the mother of all virtues."