When I was 7 years old, my mom prepared a glorious lunch consisting of two pieces of Kentucky Fried Chicken. I wouldn’t know it at the time, but that lunch would go down in infamy. A rule of life was broken that day.
One with the potential to improve this world tenfold, and all of us in it.
This is that story…
As I positioned myself on the school gymnasium floor, with my special deep fried treat unveiled for all to see, my classmates looked in awe.
But one friend, my neighbor Tyler, had other ideas:
“I will trade you your KFC chicken for my Transformer toy!” Tyler said.
This was bold move.
Fried chicken for a toy. I'm unaware how frequent transactions like this take place in playgrounds around the world, but it must not be very often.
We all knew, at that moment, something memorable was in play.
My classmates, eating ham and cheese sandwiches, looked on in amazement.
“Which Transformer?” I said, pretending to be half interested.
“Soundwave. I have it in my backpack right here.”
Tyler pulled the small masterpiece of human engineering from his red backpack.
He placed it next to my deep fried chicken.
I couldn’t believe my luck.
Soundwave was one of my favourite Transformers of all time. He was frequently featured in the Saturday morning TV cartoons and 7–11 comic books where I grew up, in Canada.
But was this trade for real?
I loved Transformers, but I didn’t own any, and Tyler knew it.
Transformers, back then, represented the height of the North American 80’s toy renaissance for kids, and for good reason.
Transformers came not just as badass battle-ready Alien Robots, but they ALSO transformed into amazing everyday house hold items, like cars, micro-cassette recorders, and dinosaurs.
They set the new standard for what toys should be for me and my friends.
“Well, which piece of chicken do you want, the leg or the wing?” I asked, moving the transaction forward.
“The leg please.” Tyler said politely.
“Ok. Deal.” I shouted.
Tyler nodded then handed me Soundwave.
I passed Tyler the chicken.
“So…Soundwave is mine? To keep?” I asked, just to be certain.
“Yes.” Tyler said. “I have lots of other Transformers anyway.” He said, holding the KFC drumstick in triumph.
Was he rubbing it in?
I wasn’t sure, and it didn’t matter. Soundwave WAS mine now.
The next 36 hours were a glorious, euphoric, toy-playing blur. Soundwave and I became inseparable at school and at home.
I played out battle scenes between Soundwave, with his photographic memory and ability to jam radio wave transmissions, against my older collection of toys.
But no matter what the odds, or how outnumbered he was, Soundwave always won the battle.
Who would have thought the ability to transform into a micro cassette recorder could be so valuable in battle?
Those were the good days….
Until ‘it’ happened:
Less than two days from our KFC Transformer transaction, the phone rang.
It was Tyler’s mom, from down the street, and it appeared we had a problem.
Still on the phone, mom shouted…
“Goran. Is this true? You traded your lunch for a Toy that belonged to Tyler!?
“Yes. We made a fair trade.” I said. “But it's not just a toy, it's Soundwave! Did you know Soundwave can transform into…”
“Unbelievable! You shouldn’t be trading your food for toys! We are not rich. You have to eat the food I prepare for you!”
“Tyler’s mom just found out, she’s very upset. She’s coming over now, to pick it up.”
“But Tyler agreed! He made a promise!”
I was distraught. I was heart broken.
A few minutes later the doorbell rang. Soundwave was given back to Tyler’s mom, as I cried in my room.
“I want my chicken back then!” I shouted in vein anger and protest.
Tyler acted differently around me after that day, almost ashamed. But he never apologized, or explained what happened, or how his mom found out.
Our friendship would never be the same.
Something fundamentally wrong happened that day.
Even after all these years, it is a story I remember and share as a lesson. Not because I lost a toy, or because I like deep fried chicken, which by the way is bad for you, but because an important rule in life had been broken.
And that rule is this:
Have Principles in life.
Know what they are, and stick to them.
Or if you prefer, simply:
Keep the promises that you make.
In life we experience countless moments where those around us make promises and then, at the pain of others, break them.
Those broken promises can seem small and insignificant, but they show the world who we really are.
And they often hurt those around you.
Stick to your principles: it is the ultimate sign of character.
Failing to do so, shows a lack thereof.
The principles we live by, or fail to live by, define us.
Principles have the power to bring the best out of us, as friends and family, or as neighbours.
Apply principles at home and at work.
Let principles govern life's small moments and biggest choices.
After all, living with principles will not only improve the world we live in, it will also unlock the best in all of us.
Five Ways To Apply Principles Today:
1. In Life or Work: When you see someone weaker than you - help them, or ensure your interactions are fair. Do not take advantage.
Principle: Treat those around you as you would family or close friends.
2. For School Teachers - Take time to get to know your children. Be kind. They look to you for acknowledgement and support, which they may not receive in a broken home.
Principle: Treat those who look to you for support with love, patience and kindness.
3. For those who bully others: Be it your classmate, friends, family, neighbours. Know that the bullying you put on others comes back to you. Stop the cycle for you inflict pain on others, and on you.
Principle: Bullying is beneath you. If you yourself are a victim of bullying, reach out for help. You are loved.
4. For Husbands and Wives: Take time to understand each others needs, principles and pains.
Principle: Embrace your partners needs by putting them first in the small and big decisions in life. It will strengthen your bond and bring happiness in your home.
5. Be kind to others: Your neighbours, friends, family, co-workers and strangers on the street. Smile first, do a kind deed.
Principle: Life truly is what you make it. You have the power to brighten someone's difficult day.
BONUS: Parents, teach your children about principles, what they are, and their importance in life. Living a principled life starts at a young age. It starts with sharing with others and caring not just for ourselves, but for others.
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