Hello and good day!
A dad parks his car next to a red curb in front of a mall.
It's Christmas time and the center is flooded with shoppers.
The man's young son is sitting in the back seat.
"Son, I'll be right back. I'm just running into the drug store to buy light bulbs. Your mother says we need a pack."
"I'll lock the doors. Sit tight. It won't take long."
The father steps out and presses the door lock button on his key fob. The locks click shut.
The little boy looks out the window.
His father disappears into the multitude.
There is a huge Christmas tree in front of the mall with happy shoppers gathered around it.
Lights from the tree light up the cool winter night.
A salvation army Santa stands next to a hanging red bucket and rings a bell which the boy can hear faintly through the window.
Every once in a while, a person walks by and drops money into the bucket.
The Santa nods in appreciation.
The boy is enjoying the happy scene when he hears a knock on the window.
It is a police officer.
He is mouthing something to the boy, but the boy can't understand.
The boy looks at the officer but does not move.
Finally, the officer stops knocking and shakes his head, exasperated.
He puts his hands on his hips and looks into the passing crowd, trying to find the owner of the car.
The father is still in the drug store.
The officer whips out his ticket book and begins to write a citation.
It takes several minutes to write the ticket and just as the officer puts the ticket on the windshield, the father comes running towards the car.
The little boy watches.
"What are you doing!" yells the father.
"I'm writing you up," says the officer.
"Please. I was only gone for a minute and I'm not bothering anybody here."
"You're in a red zone and your kid is in the car. Both of those things are illegal."
"Please reconsider. Its Christmas time. I just ran in and out. There weren't any spots in the garage."
"I can't. Rules are rules. You parked in a red zone and you got caught. You better move along."
The father takes a deep breath and looks at his son in the backseat of the car.
The boy is sitting quietly and still has his seatbelt on.
The father snatches the ticket off the windshield to see the amount, $400.
"$400! I was gone 8 minutes!"
"Parking in a fire zone is a serious offense. So is leaving a minor unattended."
"You know something, this is horse crap! I'm a hard-working citizen and a taxpayer. I pay your salary for crying out loud and you do this to me at Christmas time! How do you sleep at night!"
"Sir, you better move along before things get ugly."
"I'm not going anywhere until you rip up this ticket. What you're doing is unfair!"
The two men stand in the street chest to chest, yelling, and a crowd gathers.
The little boy watches from the car.
More and more onlookers drift over.
Shoppers whisper to each other and point and look at the father and the officer and the little boy in the car.
The little boy wishes that his father would stop making a scene and take him home.
But the father and the officer keep going.
"This is your final warning sir. I don't want to arrest you in front of your boy. It will be a lot of work for both of us and its Christmas time. But you aren't giving me any other options."
The father tears the ticket to pieces and throws the pieces on the ground.
"I'm adding littering and disturbing the peace to your citation. You'll get a copy in the mail. Now get in your car and go right now!"
The father turns and climbs into his car.
He slams the door from the inside and throws the box of lightbulbs onto the passenger seat.
"I'm sorry you had to see that son. He was wrong," says the father.
The boy is little, but he is old enough to know that it was his father who caused the scene.
He loves his father more than anybody in the world and his father is a good father.
He works hard.
He reads stories before bed.
He mostly does his best.
But the little boy is sure that his father is wrong in this case, not the officer.
Over the years, the son witnesses his father breaking many small rules and not accepting responsibility when he is caught.
As the boy grows older, he develops a rampant disrespect for authorities.
He argues with teachers.
He ditches class.
He tries to get away with whatever he can.
Things become worse and worse.
The father sits the boy down several times per week and tries to talk some sense into him.
But the boy doesn't listen.
He knows who his father really is.
He won't accept this particular advice from his dad.
Eventually the boy plays for a stern sports coach who is upstanding in every observable way.
The coach makes an impact, and the boy turns things around.
I know of several youngsters who are going through challenging times in their lives right now.
Their parents are at wit's end.
They don't know how to get things back on track.
Not a single one has mentioned working on themselves.
It's always about what the kid is doing wrong with no exploration of where the kid may have picked up their bad habits in the first place.
I can see clearly where my kids have absorbed certain of my frailties, but I will have no moral high ground from which to advise or criticize unless I improve myself in those areas first.
Children don't choose their parents.
In all areas of life, we are subject to authorities whom we did not choose.
It sure seems to me that those in a position of authority have a moral obligation to be the best dang person they can possibly be, especially as it pertains to the behaviors and attitudes they plan to demand from others.
A sloppy person can't demand neatness.
A rude person can't demand good manners.
An angry person can't demand calm rationality.
We can only rightfully expect from others what we are ourselves.
Thank you so much for your time today.
I hope that you have a truly blessed day!