Never Put Rocks in Your Mouth

Never Put Rocks in Your Mouth

From Chicken Soup for the Preteen Soul

Never Put Rocks in Your Mouth

When I was in the sixth grade, my teacher asked our class the question, “What does ‘doing the right thing’ mean to you?” She asked us to think about that question over the weekend, and to talk to our parents or anyone else we thought might have a good answer. By Monday, we were to turn in an essay on what “doing the right thing” meant, and be prepared to live up to our answers.

The entire weekend, I wracked my brain trying to come up with something that would impress my teacher and be easy to live by. I talked to my parents, called my grandmother and asked my next-door neighbor. I even asked the mailman! Everyone had good answers, but I didn’t feel like I could live up to them.

By Sunday afternoon, I hadn’t written my essay. To make matters worse, my parents said we were going to my Aunt Cindy’s house. That usually meant that I would have to entertain my cousin Andrea while my parents visited after dinner. Andrea was four and a major pest.

Just as I predicted, my parents told me to play with Andrea while they visited. I turned on the television and found a Disney movie for Andrea, and then I sat down and started to write my essay. I still didn’t know what I was going to write about, but it was due the next morning and this was my last chance.

Soon I felt a pair of eyes on me. It was Andrea.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“I have to write an essay about what doing the right thing means to me.”

Andrea laughed. “That’s easy,” she said.

“Okay,” I said, thinking, What could this smart aleck four-year-old possibly know that all of the adults who I had asked hadn’t already come up with?

“Tell me the answer,” I said smugly.

Andrea cleared her throat and stood up.

“Doing the right thing means being nice to your family and friends. Doing what your mommy says. Never lie. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Don’t eat dog food. Take a bath when you’re dirty and wash your own private parts. Don’t watch icky movies with kissing and stuff. Don’t waste water and electricity. Don’t scare the cat. Don’t ever run away. And never, never put rocks in your mouth.”

I stared with astonishment at my little cousin. Then I jumped up, grabbed Andrea and gave her the biggest hug I could. Not only had Andrea answered a very tough question for me, I could easily live by all of her rules. All I had to do was be nice, not lie, keep myself clean and healthy, not scare cats, and never, never put rocks in my mouth. Piece of cake. So when I wrote my essay, I included the story about Andrea and how she had answered my question.

Two weeks later, my teacher returned everyone’s essays. I received an A+ along with a little note my teacher had written at the top: “Always do the right thing—and give Andrea an A+, too!”

Shirley Barone Craddock

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