When I was a boy, every time I left the house my mother would holler at me: “Remember who you are!” It was her way of reminding me to live as I had been taught and to uphold the family name. I have friends who communicate a similar thought to their children through a small sign, hung by the door for the kids to read as they leave each day. It says simply: “Return with honor.”
As a parent, I understand that sentiment. When my three children are at school each day, I hope that they will be enthusiastic in the classroom, fair on the playground, friendly and helpful in their interactions with others. Nevertheless, the command to “remember who you are” or to “return with honor” is really more of a wish when you come right down to it. Ultimately, the choices my kids make when not under my direct supervision are theirs and theirs alone—which is why my wife and I place such an emphasis on teaching correct principles in our home. Home is the primary place in which we get the chance to instill in our children the principles which we believe should govern their daily activities.
As I watched along with you the terrible aftermath of Katrina unfold, I was troubled by reports of lawlessness. When I heard that hospitals and doctors were under siege, that each night homes and businesses were being pillaged and law-abiding citizens shot at, I couldn’t help but wonder: What sort of a person believes that the absence of a viable police force implies a freedom to do merely as one pleases? I try to imagine the homes in which such people were raised, and I wonder what the sign above the door must have read: “It isn’t wrong if you don’t get caught”? “Take whatever you can get”?
But then I heard other stories—of thousands of volunteers spending countless hours trying to rescue and relieve the suffering, of hundreds of millions of dollars in donated aid, of strangers helping strangers and communities reaching out—and I was reminded that even though a crisis such as this can bring out the worst in some, it also brings out the best in many more. And although our immediate response to the disaster may have been horribly inadequate, I couldn’t help but feel that ultimately we will get it right. Because in spite of the lawless few, we remain a society in which parents still teach their children to “return with honor,” and mothers still remind their sons: “Remember who you are.”