You just won one million dollars! What would you do with it? When we were younger, my dad would periodically ask my brother and I that question, and all too often to my immature mind. For me, steps one through five would rarely change – church gift, bills, gifts, savings/investing, something special for myself. More importantly however, since the likelihood of receiving it was little-to-none, I got tired of having to answer it over and over again – I didn’t see the point.
Only once my “mature” mind developed did I realize the question was less a hypothetical taunt to amuse my dad, but rather practical teaching/learning moments. By posing this question and critiquing my answer, he was actually teaching us about life! As a parent, he was imparting his knowledge and experience in hopes that one day it would prepare us for that lottery win…or more realistically, whatever amount we would accumulate by punching that timecard at work every day over the course of our lifetime.
He would say the rich and wealthy don’t stay that way because they decide to be so on the day they come into their riches or wealth (understand he was not only referring to people with material things); they have prepared themselves for it well in advance. When they had little-to-nothing (whether money, time, or responsibility), they learned how to live and manage it as if it were equal to one million dollars. By the time they do “make it big” their principles for living and managing things don’t change, only the amount they possess at that time.
That is also how character is developed – in relationships, by professional reputation, in financial discipline, through social or environmental responsibility, in a commitment to service, and spiritual maturity. It is first taught, then practiced, and finally, realized.
Life is complicated. If parents of today still wish their children to be the hope of tomorrow, we must not be reluctant to take a consistent and active role in developing the character of those children: more talking, more listening, more teaching, more loving.
So…what would you do if you won $40,000 today. This commentary stemmed from an article I just read in the LA Times about Allan Guei, a graduating high school athlete from Compton, California who had to answer that very question recently. When he did, it was remarkable and unexpected. That act is what highlights his character. Allan gave it ALL to the runners-up, seven of his classmates at Compton High School; even though they were already receiving a monetary prize for being finalists. What!?
Even as there are many to applauded in the article along with Mr. Guei, I have to highlight a couple we read nothing about – his parents. We don’t know anything about them, but their influence shines undeniably through the actions of this young man. I applaud them! Congratulations Allan! Thank you for learning, practicing, and exemplifying true character when it counts.
Sow a thought, reap an act. Sow an act, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap a character. Sow a character, reap a destiny. – Anonymous