It happened at County Achievement Day; a day in which 4-H members exhibit the projects they’ve worked on over the last year. Additionally, members of the community are invited to serve as judges; speaking to the children individually about what they’ve made/done and awarding them the ribbons they feel each child deserves.On this particular day Elizabeth proudly entered a dozen eggs she’d gathered from her hens the night before. They were uniform in size, the shells were ‘healthy’ (no soft or veiny spots) and thankfully the nests were clean so the eggs were, too.
Now I know what you’re thinking…that all she would have had to do was wash the eggs. But washing the waxy coating off eggs exposes them to more bacteria and will greatly diminish their shelf-life by making them more susceptible to spoilage. Elizabeth knew that and just assumed everyone else did, too.So when the judge criticized Elizabeth’s eggs for not being washed bright and shiny clean (like the other two dozen other kids had entered) Elizabeth tried to explain her reasons for not doing so, but to no avail. She was awarded a 3rd place ribbon. Elizabeth’s feelings were hurt and she didn’t understand why she’d basically been punished for doing the right thing.
I’ve thought about that day many times over the year—not because I want to dwell on what happened, but because I think there’s a valuable lesson to be learned from it all. And it’s a lesson I worked hard to pass onto my children. The lesson is this:
· No child (or adult, for that matter) should ever be viewed as a 3rd place ribbon.I’ve thought about how like Elizabeth’s eggs, people are looked down on for not having the ‘right’ brand of jeans, shoes or t-shirt. Or how about the kid who has a learning disability, a noticeable birthmark, a scar, a lisp or whose dad made the six o’clock news—and it wasn’t because he was man of the year? Who talks to ‘those’ kids? What place do they take among their peers?
Elizabeth’s eggs may not have been squeaky-clean and snowy-white, but she knew what she had and when all was said and done she didn’t need a blue ribbon to prove it. As a parent, you need to make sure your children are equally confident in who they are.
As parents it is imperative that we teach our children to be genuine, sincere and wear their integrity with pride. Equally important is the fact that we love and affirm them for who they are on the inside so that when they are judged by the label on their clothes, the brand of shoes they have or the backpack they carry (and they will be) they will see these judgments for what they are…the opinions of people who don’t know what they are talking about.