ValueSpeak
A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker

THREE BOYS, THREE SHOVELS AND PEER PRESSURE

Ever notice how two people can look at the same thing and see something altogether different?

Take snow, for example.

When my 10-year-old son, Jon, sees a thick layer of new-fallen snow on the front yard, he sees a snow fort that needs to be built, snowball fights that need to be fought and snow angels that need to be created.

When my wife, Anita, sees the same snowy scene, she sees sidewalks and a driveway that need to be shoveled.

Guess whose vision is the first to become reality?

"But I got my homework done," Jon whined as his mother dragged him out to shovel on a recent snowy afternoon. "You said I could play if I got my homework done."

"Yes, I know," Anita said. "But that was before I found out that your father is going to be working late tonight. We have to get this snow off the driveway and the sidewalks before it turns to ice. I need your help."

Jon started to shovel, but his heart wasn't in it. Mostly he just pushed the snow around, without actually making much progress toward completion of the job at hand. Anita's patience with him was running short when Adam, Jon's buddy who lives a few houses up the street, suddenly appeared on his own driveway, shovel in hand. Adam is smaller than Jon, but he began pushing snow off of his driveway like a pro. Then Brady, Jon's friend who lives across the street, emerged from his house and began clearing his driveway enthusiastically.

It probably isn't coincidental that the quality of Jon's work improved significantly after he saw what his friends were doing. Suddenly, it was cool to shovel snow. Way cool. MUCH cooler than . . . you know . . . playing in the stuff.

"Why don't you go inside, Mom?" Jon suggested in a voice that, for the first time in half an hour, didn't whine. "I can handle this."

When Jon finished with our driveway and sidewalks, he carried his snow shovel up the street to help Adam finish his. Then the two boys trudged down to Brady's, and before you knew it, all three houses were de-snowed.

But that isn't the end of the story. Even though the boys were technically free to play as soon as the work at their respective houses was finished, they decided snow-shoveling was so much fun that they wanted to continue doing it. They started looking around the neighborhood for driveways and sidewalks to shovel. By dinnertime, six or seven driveways were wondrously clean, thanks to three boys, three shovels and an incredible thing called peer pressure.

Of course, peer pressure doesn't always work out so incredibly. We've all seen how it can drag our kids down to the lowest possible levels of speech, habits and behaviors. But when it is working correctly in their lives, it can be a powerful, positive force, encouraging them toward that which is good and right and appropriate.

Not to mention what it can do for snowy sidewalks.

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--- © Joseph Walker

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Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through www.Amazon.com.