Integrity Matters
April 5, 2006

Wealth is in the eye of the beholder

Question: (E-230)

Dear Jim:

Is there a right way to teach the next generation to show proper appreciation for the incredible lifestyle that has been provided to them? How does integrity apply?


Young people often emulate parents, for better and worse. Adults - including mothers and fathers, teachers and other leaders - set the tone for gracious and humble appreciation. They teach integrity and maturity, with words and actions.

Perhaps the following "author-unknown" story will clarify the challenge. It portrays how one father sought to teach his son to appreciate being really "well off." Pay attention to what the son learned:

One day, a wealthy father took his son on a short trip to a poverty-stricken section of the country with the purpose of exposing him to how less-fortunate people live. The father and son spent two days visiting and sharing a few meals with a struggling family. The father asked many questions, and the son was quiet, making only occasional comments. On their return home, the father inquired, "How was the trip?" "It was great, Dad."

"Did you see how poor people live?" the father asked. "Oh yes," said the son.

"So, what did you learn from the trip?" asked the father.

The son answered: "I saw that we have one dog and they had four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lanterns in our garden, and they have the stars at night. Our patio reaches to the front yard, and they have the whole horizon. We have a small piece of land to live on, and they have fields that go beyond our sight. We have people you pay who serve us, but they serve on another. We buy our food, but they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us; they have friends to protect them."

The boy's father was speechless. Then his son added, "Thanks Dad for showing me how poor we are and how rich those are who might appear to have so very little."

Recognizing different perspectives, including responses from children, can be a wonderful thing. Wealth and happiness are about appreciating what one has. Since humans often teach best what they most need to learn, the time is now to model appreciation and pay attention to the priorities of our lives.

Integrity, including showing genuine appreciation, really matters.

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