I once had a Kenyan teacher from a small town outside of Nairobi. He told me a story from his childhood that has remained with me for years. The moral of the story has remained in my mind in spite of its simpleness, likely because it made me realize the difference between educating a child on right and wrong and just punishing them without reason. I tell this story as if I were my teacher talking.
A Kenyan Boy
I remember once in my life when I was a very small boy. In Kenya, I used to play in the streets with my friend Joseph. We were the best of friends and spent our afternoons playing in the fields and streets with whatever we could find. In my town, there was not too much to do so we had to be creative with our games. We would use anything we could find: sticks, rocks, toys, balls.
One day, Joseph and I decided to deflate some of the tires on the cars in our town. Joseph had showed me how easy it was to do. You just had to remove the cap from the tire inflation nozzle then use a small stick to press the pin to release the air. It took just a few minutes and a tire would be completely flat. We found it to be quite entertaining and we did this to several cars. As our new game became old our attention waned with the orange African sun as it lowered into the deep afternoon, we parted ways and made for our homes.
Upon arriving home, I was greeted as usual by my father and mother. Father had just returned from work. As we sat to eat our dinner, I underwent the usual daily questions from my parents inquiring to my afternoon activities. I sat, overwhelmed with guilt, for the tires that we had deflated as deep down, I knew we were wrong. I confessed my wrongdoings before them.
Much to my surprise was my father’s reaction. He seemed upset, but he didn’t yell. He didn’t beat me. Instead, he took me to our car. He commanded, “Sit in the car; we will go for a drive.” We drove for a few minutes before my father spoke. He asked rhetorically, “Did you consider the inconvenience you caused to the drivers of those vehicles?” As we approached a stopping point in the road, my father parked the car and took me from it. He sat me down near the car and asked, “My son, did you enjoy that ride? Not having to walk or ride that entire distance. The amount of time it saved us? You must appreciate the things that you have been given in this world, for not everyone has the same conveniences that you enjoy daily. The car is able to move because of the good tires that hold it and gain traction on the ground. Without the tires, the car will go nowhere, and you will not have its use. What you did today was not only a great disrespect for another man’s property, but additionally a grave disservice to our community. You must respect what you have been given in life and never take it for granted.” My father then placed me back into the car and took me home.
The main thing that I took from this story had nothing to do with tires. I learned a great lesson about education from this teacher. There is a piece in the book 7 Habits of Highly Successful People by Stephen Covey that describes how Stephen and his wife realized that the best way to keep their kids from getting themselves into trouble was to educate them at the core, giving them moral and ethical backing for their decisions and not attacking the action itself. The action is never the root of the problem. Thus, this would give them an appreciation for their reason and thought process. I found these two stories to be parallel in this sense. What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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