SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT FOR TEENS: Shopping Carts and Character

Hi, this is Michael Josephson with Something to Think About.

When Leon was 14, his father asked him to return a shopping cart in a grocery store parking lot.  Leon was annoyed. “C’mon, Dad,” he said, “No one returns their carts anymore. That’s why they hire people to collect them. If everyone returned their shopping carts some people would lose their jobs.”

His dad, weary of always fighting with Leon, was about to give in when he saw an elderly couple walking together to return their cart. Finally, he said firmly, “Son, there are two kinds of people in this world: those who return their shopping carts and those who don’t. We are the kind who do.  Now, go return the cart.”

Leon, now a father himself, remembered this story when was arguing with his 15-year-old daughter who protested that it was unfair that she had to give up her Saturday to visit  her Aunt Susie who recently had a baby.  “Why do I have to go?”

Like his father years before, Leon was tempted to surrender, but instead he said “Because they are family and that’s what families do.”

What do you think?

Is there any virtue in being “the kind of people who return shopping carts” or who visit family even when it’s inconvenient or are these just examples of adults abusing their authority to order kids around?

Anne Frank was only 13 when she wrote, “The formation of our character lies in our own hands.”  She realized that character is both shaped and revealed by our choices. And our choices are determined by our values – what we believe is important.

Every day, we face choices between what we want to do and what we should do. Being consistently kind and considerate, honest and responsible, treating everyone with respect – even trying to be fair — is not easy and very few people are all those things all the time.

The challenge is to be the best person you can be and even small things like returning shopping carts and visiting relatives can help you form the habits and gain the reputation of a good person.

Only you can decide whether it’s worth it.

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