Beautiful faces are they that wear
The light of a pleasant spirit there;
Beautiful hands are they that do
Deeds that are noble, good and true;
Beautiful feet are they that go
Swiftly to lighten another’s woe.
– from McGuffey’s Second Reader
Oswald Chambers once wrote, “No man is virtuous because he cannot help it; virtue is acquired.” To understand what Chambers is saying all one has to do is observe a tiny baby. Babies are born into the world completely helpless and totally dependent on someone else for their every need, and because of that – in spite of how much we may love and adore them, especially our own – they begin their little lives as the most self-centered beings on the face of the earth. That is their first instinct; everything from there must be acquired.
As grandparents of two two-and-a-half year old little girls we have front row seats from which to watch this very drama being played out; for with the exception of potty-training everything their parents have been teaching them since they began to emerge from infancy involves undoing the idea that they are the center of the universe. (Of course to us they ARE the center of the universe which is why grandparents are allowed only bit parts in the play.) In other words, a child’s education from toddler to adulthood is about interacting in a world of fellow human beings. It is about learning good behavior and concern for others.
“Moral education – the training of heart and mind toward the good – involves many things,” William Bennett reminds us in his book, The Book of Virtues. “For children to take morality seriously they must be in the presence of adults who take morality seriously.” As we discussed last week, “mankind should be our business”, and that includes teaching our children the business of mankind, for “no man is virtuous because he cannot help it; virtue is acquired.”