My young daughter and a friend and I were traversing a back road in Yellowstone National Park. At one point we got out of the car to examine the rocks and bones that had gathered in a water runoff area. Suddenly my daughter paused – eyes lit, mouth ajar, overcome by sheer delight. She had discovered a rectangular piece of rock with painting on it.
We were stunned. It was the find of a lifetime. It also brought into focus a dilemma. Keep this rock or turn it in?
My daughter knows that America's national parks have strict rules about not removing items from the land. I felt that this experience had the potential to be a valuable lesson for her, the kind she would take through life. So rather than ordering her to hand the rock over to a park ranger or to put it back where she'd found it, I waited and let her come to the right conclusion on her own.
She is only 10, and she really wanted to take that rock home. I couldn't blame her. I could picture it sitting in a prominent spot in our house. I could also picture the sadness we'd feel every time we remembered that we had taken something that wasn't ours.
My daughter wants to be honest and decent and expects to find those characteristics in others as well. Mary Baker Eddy stated, "What holds us to the Christian life is the seven-fold shield of honesty, purity, and unselfed love" ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," p. 200).
As a parent, I knew that I could give her some space and count on her divine Father-Mother to provide the guidance that she needed. We continued to look around the area while she thought about her decision.
This wasn't just a moment to learn some lessons about honesty; it was a moment to see the value of this spiritual quality to the rest of the world as well. We hear a lot today about kids lacking moral structure, about people acting selfishly. This was an opportunity to counter those beliefs as misconceptions.
God's law alone determines an individual's ability to be truthful and upright. Psalm 100 says, "Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture."
It was time for us to go. I asked my daughter, "What do you think God wants you to do?" This question brought it all into focus for her. Her desire to be good jelled with her willingness to follow God. She had her answer.
"Give it to a ranger," she replied with certainty. In fact, she told me later that as soon as she heard my question, her thought became clear and she felt a rush of peacefulness.
A ranger was stationed at a park entrance close by. She confirmed that it looked like the rock painting done in the area by the people who had lived there long ago. She was excited to have us turn it in. We wrote down exactly where we had found it so that a specialist could go back and study the area more thoroughly. My daughter was confident that she had made the right decision and was pleased that the ranger had validated her discovery.
It was a step forward in my daughter's spiritual growth and a reminder that honesty isn't something we go out and get. It's an innate part of each of us, a God-given quality that is accessible and permanent. When we act with integrity, we help ourselves and we play an important part in building a stronger community.
for I wait on thee.