It was a stupid, simplistic table game. As we were too young to know we should have been bored to tears by its lack of sophistication we played it over and over. The game was called “'Tis so” and it was based on the Old Testament book of Proverbs. Its purpose was to teach proverbs to young kids. It worked.
The game consisted of small 1.5 inch by 0.5 inch pieces of cardboard that each had a portion of a proverb written on one side. Proverbs were divided into three sections with the words for a particular proverb all written with the same color font. The goal was to collect the three parts of a proverb and then lay them out in front of you in a fashion similar to the card game “Go Fish.” The player who had the most proverbs in front of them won the game. Pretty simple concept but it had a profound impact on me.
It was through this game that I learned a proverb that has shaped my life-
A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver and gold. Proverbs 22:1
I was only 10 years old but I understood what the verse meant. There is nothing in life more important than your character. It was clear to me that if I was ever forced to choose between doing the right thing and making money that the right thing should always win out. Good men never count the cost before doing the right thing. From that time on I set my sights on the lofty goal of being a good man. Although I ended up pursuing a well paying job wealth was irrelevant compared to integrity. What mattered the most was who I was inside, not the stuff I possessed.
I have worked hard to instill this value in my children. When my son was in 4th grade we went to his parent/teacher conference. When we sat down with the teacher she briefly mentioned some behavioral issues our son had displayed, that he had been mean to a special needs child. She quickly told us that the issue had been dealt with and then tried to move on to a discussion of his stellar academic performance.
To her surprise and chagrin we had no interest in discussing his classroom performance. “I know he is smart,” I said, “I am more concerned about his character.” I told her I would rather my son be a trash collector with character than a dishonest President of the United States. I backed up my beliefs when we went home.
We learned that he and another student had been picking on another child while they all played on the school's new and very popular playground equipment. We told him that he was banned from that equipment for the rest of the school year, a total of 8 months. “Every time you see the other kids having fun on that playground I want you to remember why you can’t" I said, “We are Barretts, we don’t pick on the weak, we defend them.” We said nothing about his academic success. Both my son and his teacher learned that day that in our eyes character was more important than worldly success.
It seems that the values found in Proverbs 22:1 are increasingly on the decline in our nation. We just completed an election cycle led by individuals who seem to believe that character is irrelevant. All that mattered was winning by any means possible. This seems to be the new American way, which means we have lost out way as a nation. People cheat in business, on exams and in their marriages. There was once a time when a handshake sealed an agreement, we now live in an era where promises are made to be broken.
I cannot change America but I may still be able to make a difference. It is my hope and prayer that I will be a honorable and trustworthy man and as a result encourage those around me to do the same. I may not end up rich, but perhaps I can leave this world with something of greater value. A good name.