Born Good

4 Jun

Sometimes, people are just born good.

Last week, my 14 year old son came to me:

“Mom, I finally figured out what I want to do with my March Madness winnings. I want to give it to Relay for Life.”

“That’s the fundraiser at your school for The American Cancer Society, right?”

“Right.”

And then my heart caught. My mother is a three time survivor of  breast cancer. She is the most beautiful warrior I have ever seen. She is also the inspiration for this sudden largesse. That and the fact that donations are tied to chances to watch a certain teacher go down in the dunk tank at the school carnival. I told him I loved him. I told him I was proud of him. I told him to sleep on it before he does anything.

My son loves sneakers. LOVES them. He loves a lot of things he could buy himself with his money. He also understands the value of a dollar because he babysits his little brothers and earns every last cent we pay him. But there is a certain depth to him. He gets things. He is understanding. He is a thinker. He is connected.

A few days later, my son found me in the kitchen.

“Mom, I’ve thought about it and I’m going to give the money to charity.”

He showed me a Ziploc full of $125 cash. He was unaware of the grand gesture he was making. It was just an easy decision that made sense.

Later that morning I received a phone call from the school, the caller ID for which always elicits  panic. After the assistant principal told me there was nothing to be alarmed about, I realized why he was calling. He told me that he nearly cried when he discovered my son wanted to give all his money to charity and it was an emotional conversation to say the least. I hung up the phone and wept.

I have been really riding my son all year about his school work. My concern is that it doesn’t matter to him; that he’s not as motivated as he should be; that he’s not competitive enough with himself to do the best he possibly can; that it doesn’t matter. I have been remiss. There are more important things in life. And I was just reminded of that by my son.

When my son came home from school that day, he was excited, he was animated, he was maybe even a little bit proud. He didn’t seem to recognize the grandeur of his action until he told me that for 20 minutes, the teachers (who originally didn’t think they could even accept that high a donation) crowded around him and told him what a wonderful thing he was doing. The superintendent and the principal also spoke to my son about his generosity. And more important, he seemed poised to manipulate the dunk contest results so that one teacher in particular was a goner.

“Did you do this for Nanny?”

“Yes. And Aunt Sandy.”

My beloved aunt who died from lung cancer when my son was only 6. There’s that depth again.

I am so proud of this boy. And I am so disappointed in myself for all those times I pushed him while not focusing on what is really important: he is. And he is not just a grade point average or an extra-curricular activity or some dumb random honor. He is not a high school transcript or a standardized test or an assigned generic task. He is so much more. He is everything.

I can teach him all I want. I can help him with his homework (not math!) and how to organize an essay and how to make a good omelet and how to make his bed and how to do the laundry and how to moonwalk. I cannot teach him to be a good — a really good — person.

Thankfully, he already is.

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2 Responses to “Born Good”

  1. Elaine Brownstein June 12, 2014 at 8:44 pm #

    Lisa, you are wrong. You have taught all three of your children to be good people and you have taught them by example every single day of their lives! You are a great mother, daughter, sister, cousin and friend. You truly are amazing!

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