Character Building 101

Once a week, stories are shared that are meant to encourage students to reflect on their lives, see hope for their futures and grow to become responsible, productive, team-oriented young adults. Below is a brief synopsis of the types of stories shared and student comments about their effectiveness.

1. Goal Setting and Temptations - Why do we set goals? When temptations (sex, drugs, pornography, cheating, partying, etc) come along, your decision will be an easy one because you can respond to the temptation in light of where the journey towards your preset goals is taking you. If you have previously defined who and what you want to become, the temptation is easy to say 'No!' to. If, on the otherhand, you have not clearly defined the direction you want for your life, often times others will make that decision for you: "Here, try this", Just one won't hurt", "You can study later". Everyone will be tempted...It's how you respond to that temptation that defines who you are.

2. DNA and Your Desinty - I took this from Bubba Paris. I placed a picture of an acorn, catepillar and a young Albert Einstein on the overhead and asked what each student had in common with these pictures. Essentially they all have a DNA that destines them for something that they could not possibly comprehend or see in their current stage of development. Every student has a DNA that will equip them for the reason that they are on this planet: a great writer, athlete, friend, listener, teacher, worker, caregiver, mechanic, etc. They may not see it right now, but it is their job to make sure they work hard to become the best at what they are best at. Temptations can easily derail from this destiny, so make decisions wisely.

3. Be The Ant - While at a conference, between sessions, I walked out of the building and into an open field. I happened upon an ant colony and watched them for a while. I took some video of their work and noticed that not all of the ants were doing the same thing. Some were coming out of the nest with a small pebble in their jaws, depositing the rock and immediately returned from where they came. Others would leave the frame of the video, and others would reneter the frame with some sort of food item in their jaws and enter their hole. Ants do not have overseers or rulers, but each does its job in the season that they are currently in. If they do not prepare, when the cold weather sets in, they will die and the colony will perish. Every person has a job, and every person should be working to the best of their ability right now so that when this season is over (long or short), they are prepared for the next. This could be the next school term, graduation, a job, studying for a test, college applications, starting a family, and so on. My question to them, "Are they doing everything they can right now to ensure preparation for what comes next?"

4. The Golf Ball - While walking by a golf couse one day, I looked down, saw a golf ball and picked it up. Something in its past, whether of it's own doing or someone else's, put it in a place where it's not supposed be...out of it's element. I started bouncing it off of the sidewalk and realized that even though the ball has the ability to do this, it's not what it was designed for. When it is with the golfer who invested in the ball and with the clubs, tees, and on the golf couse, it's job is the sail 100's of's meant to soar. Once I took hold of it, I simply took it farther from where it's supposed to be...I had no value in the ball. I simply used it to my amusement, put it somewhere once I was done and have since forgotten where I even set it. My question to the students, "How many of you have friends who you know are not where they are supposed to be - off course, and what's going to happen to them if they remain there?"

5. Opportunities to know what you Don't want to do - When I was young, I had the opportunity to do a job that I grew to dislike tremendously. I was digging ditches for a local dentist. Instead of quitting, I did the job to the best of my abilty but knew at that point that I was going to stay in school as long as needed to make sure my career did not involve digging ditches. My question to the students, "Have you worked through a chore that you hated, but used the experience to help shape your future." Instead of grumbling and running from the job, I used this opportunity to learn and direct my path.

6. Preparation and Opportunity - While running one morning, I looked down the street to see that the light at the next crossing as red. If I had quit then because the "door was closed", I would not have experience what happened next and for the next three lights. Each time it got with 10 feet of the intersection, the light turned green...the door opened. Opportunity comes when you prepare. An athlete will not be drafted into the pros without preparation. The preparation allows an individual to be ready when that door opens. I ran the distance to the light and once I got there, the light turned green. Te door opened and I walked through. My comment to the students, " Are you letting what you see right now in your furture, discourage you from preparing for that door that you may not even see right now...will you be ready?" "Are you learning the skills that we present in class?" "Will you be able to tell an employer that you can use a metal lathe, weld, use power tools, direct a group to a common goal OR were you just an observer?"

7. The Garden of Your Life - Your life is a product of the events, words, and circumstances that people have planted in your life. It looks like a garden. Some of those things planted might be healthy loving relationships, positive affiliations, and happy memories. Other items in your garden, weeds, may include hurtful words spoken to you, broken relationships or harmful and unhealthy activities. If you let these weeds take root and allow them to grow, pretty soon they become part of your identity. For example, if someone says that you are "worthless", and you believe that to be true (you let it take root and grow) then you begin to incorrectly believe this of yourself. If, on the other hand, you have a gardener in your life- someone who loves you and truly knows the truth of who you are, then these weeds are uprooted and discarted before they begin to cause damage. A gardener's job is also to prune. If a pear tree is not pruned each year, the harvest for the following year will not be as nearly as productive as it could have been, so even positive things in your life (garden) need to be tempered. Many things can bring weeds into a garden, the wind, a bird leaving an unwanted "gesture", running water, etc. These are analogous to things like a misguided TV advertisement, temptation, and destructive friendships. What do you allow in your garden? Do you have a gardener in your life?

8. The Crazy Cycle (Love and Respect) - According to Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, respect is the number one item most Crazy Cycle.jpgcherished by males in a relationship. It's Love for females. The diagram of the crazy cycle explains how unhealthy relations can play out. If the man does not feel respected, then he responds by withholding love. If she feels unloved, she responds with disrespect...and the cycle continues. This cycle does not exist solely in a marital relationship; it can extist between parent and child, teacher and student, employer and employee, and so on. You just need to substitute love or respect for the appropriate gender response. For example, if the teacher and student are both male, then 'respect' would substitute in for 'love', and disrespect would follow disrespect. This is not to say that males don't value love and females don't value respect, but top priorities are differrent for each and these differences must be acknowledged by each party in the relationship. To get out of this "Crazy Cycle", the more emotionally mature (not always the oldest) in the relationship needs to take the The Energizing Cycle.jpgfirst step to the Energizing Cycle. At first, the other party will be suspicious, "What do you want?", "What are you up to?", but you can't give up. Pretty soon, the offer of respect will be followed by a motivation to love and the "Crazy Cycle" is defeated. Please share this with those you know who are stuck in the Crazy Cycle.

9. Crickets - Life and Death - As I was running, the chirping of crickets caught my attention, but as I continued to run, I noticed that there were areas where the only sound was that of passing cars. I grew up in a rural town, and every evening the sound of crickets would put me to bed. As I reflected on this, the sound of crickets meant life - a place where a lack pesticides and pavement meant these little critters could live. Where they could not be heard, a sad silence was present. So I thought about this in terms of our students: Are they surrounded by influences, circumstances and people they give them life, or are they surrounded by things that tear down, steal hope, and bring sadness. If the music you listen to promotes violence, if your friends continually complain or gossip, or if places you frequent or the activities you indulge in could be considered inappropriate, these things steal life (aka. bring death). On the other hand, if you surround yourself with positive people, give back to the community you live in, encourage those around you, and work to maintain healthy relationships at home and school, you will walk and live where the crickets live...places that give life.

10. Garbage: It's not too late to clean things up - As I was running, the trash on the road caught my attention...some of the same trash I passed by had been there on previous runs. Garbage can and will litter our path of life. This garbage can be put there by you or someone else and can take many forms: unforgiveness, cheating, harsh/mean spoken words, addictions, gossip, bullying and so on. The question is, "What will you do with it when it comes to your attention?" Will you pass by it, step over it, and continue on as though it were not there? Will you add to it? Will you pick it up and throw it away? It's never too late to go back and "get your house in order", "take out the trash", "start fresh." The ironic thing was that as I was cooling down after the run, I walked right past a considerable amount of trash that somebody purposely discarded in the middle of an intersection. I made it across the intersection, was convicted by my own thoughts, turned around, recrossed the intersection, picked up the trash and headed for the nearest garbage can. What will you do with the trash in your life?


- "Be the Ant" Work hard for a better future.

- "Everyone has a purpose and it's their job to make sure they fulfill their destiny by avoiding risky behavior that could detour them off of the road of destiny."

- "Your speeches have really opened my eyes. I feel as if I finally have a purpose, not that I know it yet, but it feels nice to know. Life lessons have also helped me really think about things in life and in sticky situations. I really appreciate them.

- "Mr. Johnson's speeches are AMAZING. They teach amazing life lessons and they remind you that when you're having a rough time you can get through it. These speeches are going to be in my mind for the rest of life. They are life changing!!

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