Automatic response
When I was a child I remember asking myself, how is it that all the parents make the same mistakes with their children, and how is it that their children oppose them, but grow up to be parents who make the exact same mistakes. Today, as the father of two children, I try to return to that complicated question, and remember a certain worker at a printer’s store that taught me something about life way before I became a dad.

It happened during the summer vacation between fifth and sixth grade. A friend and I were trying to figure out how to pass the time and on one particular day when we were happily strolling in the city, a nice man from one of the printing stores stopped us. He asked if we wanted to work that day passing out fliers.

We were both thrilled that we found a good way to pass the time and earn some money. We made our agreement with him and started to work. At first it was fun but we quickly grew bored and decided to thin out the large number of fliers we had. We stuffed most of the fliers in a trash can nearby instead of distributing them to the mail boxes. Afterwards, the time still continued to drag on for us, and that left us plenty of time to think of excuses for the expected accusations of the printer if, by chance, he found out about our deceitful scheme.
I don’t know how he discovered it, but he did. I remember that his honest and surprising reaction was more painful for us than any of the possible aggressive responses we had prepared ourselves for.

“If you didn’t feel like doing it, you could have told me - but why did you throw away the expensive materials that I gave you?” I remember well the sad face and great bewilderment of this nice man, who taught us an important lesson in telling the truth and taking responsibility. And … it would have been so easy for us to have missed this lesson. If he had just been a little angry, if he had raised his voice, given us a little moral judgment, if he had trumped out an automatic reaction, it is clear that we would have tried to defend ourselves and get back at him with all the anger he hurled at us. But he didn’t display anger. He did not let us run away from our responsibility. He left our responsibility with us. The money, too, by the
way.





 

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