Taking My Granddaddy’s Quarter 726.2

During a seminar for teachers, I asked participants to share experiences that shaped their values. A Southern lady shared this story:

More than 50 years ago, when I was five, I was at my granddaddy’s house in a dress and white gloves. He told me I could go into the kitchen and get a cookie. Next to the cookie jar was a stack of quarters. I knew I shouldn’t have, but I took one.

I must have looked guilty when I returned because my granddaddy looked at me funny and asked me to show him my white gloves. I had the quarter in my right hand so I held out my left.

“Show me the other hand,” he said. When he saw the quarter, he looked at me sadly.

He hugged me and said, “Darlin’, you can have anything in the world I have, but it breaks my heart that you’d ever steal it.”

I’ll never forget the shame, and I never stole anything again.

Her grandfather understood this was a teachable moment and didn’t shy away from his duty to provide unambiguous moral guidance. And he did so in a manner that made the experience a permanent marker in his granddaughter’s life.

Without harsh words or punishment, he established high standards and expectations and taught her that, because of his love for her, he was a stakeholder in her choices and that he was hurt when she let him down.

An informed healthy conscience is a built-in punishment/reward system that makes us proud when we do things right and ashamed at our moral missteps. But such a conscience doesn’t develop by accident.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

More than 50 years ago, when I was five, I was at my granddaddy’s house in a dress and white gloves. He told me I could go into the kitchen and get a cookie. Next to the cookie jar was a stack of quarters. I knew I shouldn’t have, but I took one.

I must have looked guilty when I returned because my granddaddy looked at me funny and asked me to show him my white gloves. I had the quarter in my right hand so I held out my left.

“Show me the other hand,” he said. When he saw the quarter, he looked at me sadly.

He hugged me and said, “Darlin’, you can have anything in the world I have, but it breaks my heart that you’d ever steal it.”

I’ll never forget the shame, and I never stole anything again.

Her grandfather understood this was a teachable moment and didn’t shy away from his duty to provide unambiguous moral guidance. And he did so in a manner that made the experience a permanent marker in his granddaughter’s life.

Without harsh words or punishment, he established high standards and expectations and taught her that, because of his love for her, he was a stakeholder in her choices and that he was hurt when she let him down.

An informed healthy conscience is a built-in punishment/reward system that makes us proud when we do things right and ashamed at our moral missteps. But such a conscience doesn’t develop by accident.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

Comments 1

  1. A similar story. My cousin and I, two active mischievous 12 yr olds, raided our neighbor’s watermelon patch, unobserved, and pillaged it thorougly.The evidence of this trepidation, however, was all over me when I returned home, and my kindly grandfather inquired as to where I had been eating watermelon. I sheepishly said at my Uncle’s house, but he knew it wasn’t true, because the neighbor had seen the wreckage and reported it to my grandfather before I got home. I finally, after further interrogation,I ‘fessed up, and the two of us made a trip behind the woodshed. He gently explained that the act itself, though not condoned, was forgiveable, but the deliberate lying was not unlessI repented. The ensuing whupping was a redemption of sorts, and I never lied to him again. Thanks Grandpa !

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