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Great expectations, small virtues their own rewards

Can you quickly name 10 or more virtues? Not as easy as you thought? Did you perhaps question if some of those that popped into your mind were indeed virtues? Exactly what is virtue and why am I giving you this pop quiz?...

Can you quickly name 10 or more virtues? Not as easy as you thought? Did you perhaps question if some of those that popped into your mind were indeed virtues? Exactly what is virtue and why am I giving you this pop quiz?

First, the definition: The dictionary gives many synonyms of virtue as an admirable quality: goodness, uprightness, rectitude, responsibility and correctness, to name a few.

There are lists of virtues. The seven heavenly virtues are truth, love, courage, wisdom, creativity, tolerance and freedom. The cardinal virtues are justice, prudence, fortitude and temperance.

Stay with me here, I'm getting to the reason for this little lesson. So far, the one quality I've always consider a virtue was glaringly absent from the lists I checked.

Enter Benjamin Franklin, philosopher, scientist, statesman, printer, businessman, musician, inventor, and (just as a note of relevance here) co-author of a little document that begins by declaring the equality of all. Seems old Ben set about making his own list of virtues, choosing 13. Of course, I have no way of knowing if he considered any one more important than the others, but there it was, the virtue I'd been looking for, thirteenth on his list -- humility.

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Recently, I had occasion to be in the company of young mothers and daughters for an afternoon. Sitting across from a girl I judged to be about 10, I complimented her on her nail polish. "It's a very beautiful color," I said.

"I know," she answered. No "Thank, you," no "I thought so too, that's why I chose it," not even a giggling, animated "Oh, do you like it?" Just, "I know."

At this point, you'd think the mother may have leaned over and whispered in the girl's ear, who then would have uttered a proper (albeit petulant) "Thank you." The mother only smiled and rambled on about their mother daughter mani-pedis.

Minutes after the mostly one-sided conversation ended and I'd turned my attention to other table companions, the two were engaged in a loud dispute that would have had me hauling my kid out of the presence of polite company and giving her what for. At that point, their ill behavior didn't surprise me.

This isn't the first time I've encountered a pre-teen diva who thinks she is all that and more. Remembering how sincere compliments from adults boosted my confidence and self-esteem when I was still a young girl, I always look for ways to do the same, commenting on how helpful an older sister is, how well a second grader reads, what a delicious dessert a young cook helped her mother make. I'm shocked at how often I hear those same words: "I know."

Hold on just a minute. Isn't learning to say please and thank you one of those important life skills we learned in kindergarten? A quick check of the famous words penned by Robert Fulghum surprised me. Saying please and thank you isn't there.

Oh, wait, that would be because we should learn to say please and thank you as soon as we learn to talk. It should be right up there with the first words -- mama, dada, nanna, poppa and thank you.

Five- to 6-year-olds have a working vocabulary of 2,500 to 5,000 words. Children learn an average of 3,000 words per year in early grades. Fourteen thousand to 17,000 words by the age of 10, and yet no "thank you" to be heard?

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This is my bottom line.

"Thank you," is the only appropriate response to a compliment. And here's a little news flash to all the young parents out there; if you think raising kids is a thankless job you'll end up being right. You get only as much as you expect.

Judith Liebaert was raised in Superior and now lives in rural Douglas County. She blogs online as the Mad Goddess™. Send your comments or story ideas to judith_ann@madgoddess.com .

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