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Choice of Character

Eitan discovered the Harry Potter series and read all seven books recently. After finishing each book we watched the corresponding movie together. I snapped this magic picture while watching Harry Potter on his laptop. I realized I was lovingly watching Eitan watching Harry Potter.

It is a great joy to see my kid discover the inner world of books, eschewing youtube videos and online games for the good old paperback. What is not reflected in this image is my giant smile at the whole experience. I was acting as the supporting character in my own life script, and this was a really good scene.

There are times as a parent when I am reminded that good character is an ongoing process, not a static trait that we are born with. Of course we want to believe our children are good-hearted people no matter what, but the training on a day to day basis to hone good character is a necessary, detailed responsibility.

What I mean is, good character isn't what we are born with or destined to be, its how we choose to behave. Our character is reflected in how we engage. We renew this every day. In fact, we can make mistakes that exhibit bad character and we can make amends and improve ourselves. We are works in progress, that is for sure.

With rampant bad character running through our political hierarchy, I am especially cognizant as a parent how hard it is to teach good character when our leaders fail to model it. The backdrop is ugly. Can we please get a new set designer in here asap?

And yet, I believe that everyone has the capacity to choose good character. In the New York Times yesterday there is an Opinion piece by David Brooks entitled, "Kindness is a Skill: Practical tips for fighting a culture of savagery." Brooks provides suggestions on how we can engage each other respectfully in meetings and in every day life, and scoffs a bit at himself that a New York Times columnist would actually write such a piece and a New York Times reader would actually take the time to read it.

To me, this is a very promising chapter in our cultural book! It is not just children that are building good and bad character every day, we all are making choices that embody our values. It is very important to regularly remind ourselves how to operate with good character and employ these kinds of techniques to facilitate our interactions with each other, even though it feels like we should have this all memorized by heart by now.

Good character takes practice. While Brooks dismays at the conditions that require such an article, I see a positive evolution of our ability as a society to desire to improve ourselves, not for show, but for real.

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