Apr 25, 2010

A Special Kind of Guy

You might think that it is cruel, but we like to make life interesting for our kids.

For instance, this year on Ben's 15th birthday, we decided to give him cash instead of gifts.  There is nothing a teenager appreciates more the ability to spend money.

Instead of a card with a check hidden away, my wife made the gift giving a challenge.  It was like a game show in our own kitchen.

She bought three candy bars.  With the help of an Xacto knife and super glue, I was given the charge of stashing the cash in various denominations and values.

So, after the dinner and birthday cake, Ben had to select between one of the three candy bars which would seal his monetary fate.  He could select from the Zero which could be filled with cash or might be a big Nada.  He could choose the Skore which might prove to be a good choice or a bust.  He might think that the Payday could equal a great payout or a pink slip.

Unfortunately for Ben, he started with the Zero which, of course, had zero.
The Skor had a better cash payout but still not the jackpot.
The Payday was the obvious choice and offered the best bundle of mula.

In the interest of full disclosure, we were going to give all three candy bars and their contents to the birthday boy.  But it was interesting to see the wheels turn as he tried to think through his options, afraid that his birthday joy could end with one wrong choice.  He was relieved to discover that he could keep all the money and the candy.  His birthday joy was saved.

Perhaps the most interesting point to this story is that Benjamin is a young man who has many wonderful character qualities, the most powerful character quality being a deep sense of fairness.  He has always ensured that his family and friends were treated fairly and evenly.  Everyone should have a similar opportunity.  The cards should never be stacked against anyone.  If anyone within his circle of influence suffers, then he isn't doing his level best to make the situation better.

This was never more evident than the Christmas when he was just a small boy.  The presents had all been distributed.  His sister had made Ben some sort of gift in her school class.  His older brother had invested a few dollars in a action figure that he was sure Ben would appreciate.  It was at that moment that my youngest realized that his siblings were going to be short-changed.  He hadn't gotten them a gift.  He hadn't made a card.  He hadn't thought that they would give him a gift.  He didn't anticipate the inequity of the situation.

Without a word, he disappeared to his bedroom and came down with a beloved stuffed toy.  He apologized to his sister for failing to provide a true gift and offered the panda, worn from years of love.  When she thanked him for his generosity but declined the gift, he tried to force it into her arms.  This back and forth continued until the tears burst forth as he declared his sorrow that she would be without a gift if she didn't take his most prized possession.

To this day, when I think about that moment, I am reminded of Ben's giving heart and his fair nature.  I am moved by his compassion.  I am touched by his desire to ensure that all who know him will be treated with love, generosity, and equality.

Of course, you and I know that life is more complex than stuffed panda bears on Christmas morning.  Despite the growing complexity of life, Ben is doing well to see the world in terms of right and wrong, black and white, fair and unfair. 

Homeless people want to work for food and Ben has a list of jobs for them. 
Gay friends are called names and he escorts them through the halls in an effort to protect them.
Disabled children try to move into the mainstream class and Ben is there to make their experience equal to the other children in the room.

Perhaps we weren't very fair to Ben during this most recent birthday, making him choose his gift but he dealt with it well and gave us a big hug of gratitude when the evening was over.  In the end, fairness prevailed and Ben was pleased.  I realize that our world does not need any more candy bars or stuffed pandas but there is a desperate need for more men of honor who will think of others more than themselves.  I'm so proud that my son is one of those men.

Thank God.