“Grandma, why do your hands look like that,” she asked as she held my hand and pointed to all the freckles and visible veins. “Well, honey, unlike you, I have light, fair skin, which often comes with freckles and veins.”

I decided that was the best answer to give a 5-year-old, but she kept the conversation going. “Grandma, why do I not have freckles?”

“Well, your Italian skin is like your grandfather’s and mother’s. It is a bit darker and prettier than my old spotted mess. There are all different types of skin, just like there are all different colors of eyes. Right?”

Carter nodded her head in agreement and declared, “ I have two really good friends in my class, and their skin is brown. Very dark, but pretty, and they don’t have freckles.”

“Oh, and they are just like you, aren’t they,” I questioned.

“Yeah, Grandma, but one is taller!”

I decided at that point that precious 5-year-old babes should rule the world.

We are all born innocent, and each year that passes, we begin a descent into guilt and blame. Our parents’ philosophies become established in our minds because, as a child, we believed our moms and dads were always “right.”

And, in the living rooms of homes everywhere, right there is where we learn to not only love but hate.

As parents, we pass down our disdain for others in our speech and our interactions with those around us. Our young ones watch, listen, and learn from us. They sense every emotion and study each act of judgmental behavior. Our character is built on the values parents hold dear. If I was taught to hate, judge, never apologize and believe I was better than others, then I would become a wretched person making others miserable.

Also, if I was a child of a parent who did not teach me self-discipline, that education was essential, and that crime was wrong ... I would probably be lost, dead, or in prison somewhere.

Most all good parents strive and work to provide for their children. We teach them to win, but we often don’t offer lessons on how to lose. We constantly tell our children they are special, but do we teach them that others are as well? Are we showing our children that people come in all sizes, shapes, and colors, but the heart of a person is what lies inside?

Sometimes adults are just dumb. We worry and spew anger regarding America’s future, but without virtuous, honorable citizens of our future country, what good is the nation?

Our children are our country’s tomorrow. We must convince them that character is more important than power. That a person’s soul is what colors them beautiful. It is our responsibility to inform our children about faith and belief in a power higher other than ourselves. We must teach them that succeeding here is not as important as winning the favor of God. And that we steadfastly believe bigotry, bullying, and disrespect for others should never be applauded by anyone.

OK, I know I am on a soapbox, but some folks need to clean up their act with a bit of integrity soap. Let us try to show that goodness counts and not allow those who love to hate to be in the spotlight.

That little 5-year-old who thinks that all colors and varieties of folks are beautiful and unique deserves a world that believes it too. Our children require a place to grow with less violence so they may live to the potential God planned for them. They should value their freedom, respect others, and cherish life. All children should have the opportunity to flourish and spread the seeds of peace and hope, not wrath and fear. And, it all begins in their homes where their parents teach them the meaning of values.

We cannot tell our children not to bully and then applaud a bully. We cannot teach our little ones not to lie while we spread untruths. How can we say to our children all men are created equal if we are bigots? Perhaps, our character should become more like the wise, innocent 5-year-olds. If so, we can rise above our lower selves, diminish the sounds of discord, and give hope to children everywhere.

”I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Martin Luther King.

My skin is fair with a mess of freckles, but my dream for our children is the same. Character is what matters.

Lynn Gendusa of Roswell is the author of “It’s All Write with Me! Essays from my heart.” She can be reached at www.lynngendusa.com.

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