Your Moral Character

“Dear Jehovah, give his burden to me. I can carry it. I am strong. Please, allow me to have it,” I heard myself whispering a bit too loud, likely audible to the EMT next to me. “It’s ok,” I thought, “I’m sure he’s used to wailing mothers. He understands.” From the back of the ambulance, I held Shiloh’s hand, gently but firmly, and continued my prayers.

Less than 30 minutes before, I was crouching on the floor with my son as he lay on the kitchen floor unconscious; his body limp, only the whites of his eyes showing, blood spurting from his mouth, and a pool of it near his head. Michael—my partner in life, love, and all things joy-promoting and shrouded in kindness and security—found him. 

The day was off to a regular start. Shiloh had the day off school, and we had big plans for making it a productive one. I did a final walk-through of the paperwork needed to take to the DMV to get his learner’s permit: passport ✅, social security card ✅, proof of address ✅, proof of completion of online driver’s safety course✅. 

Ugh, I forgot to get a paper notarized. 

Score! I found a mobile notary who was awake at 7 am and willing to meet us at the DMV promptly at 8 am so I can sign the parental consent form. ✅

Smooth sailing so far. After we said good morning, I walked into my bedroom to finish dressing. Michael went outside with Grace, our nine-year-old Shorky (Shitzu Yorkie), and Shiloh had just walked into the kitchen. Just five minutes later, Michael called to me with worry in his voice, “Come now. Shiloh’s on the floor. Something’s wrong!”

The ambulance took us to the nearest hospital. Shiloh was stabilized. Blood work was done. Then, we were transferred to Nicklaus Children’s Hospital because they specialize in pediatric neurology. More tests were run – all day and all night. During those hours, I found myself praying nearly continuously, at the same time, for my son and all the children I encountered. The corridors, ER, and hospital rooms were all filled with ill children and their families. As the CT scan results came back normal, it took me no time to decenter myself. Shiloh is not in imminent danger. Some of the other children, though, looked like they had been battling illness their whole lives. I listened as they cried out in pain from invasive tests, overheard parents discussing long-term treatment plans, and could imagine the calculations racing through their minds. How do people afford extensive treatment for their children? How do they find the time away from work? How do they care for other non-sick children or family members? When do they get time for themselves?

Finally, the diagnosis was shared with us—Shiloh has epilepsy. He has likely had it his entire life. It’s able to be managed with medication and intentional practices. He can continue his life as it has been—a happy boy who loves sports, his friends, bonfires on the beach. I am blessed and grateful. But what about all the other mothers who are still in the hospital with their babies? What about the parents of children in conflict zones or who do not have adequate nutrition, clean water, or medical aid—whose children are being denied the basic right to a happy childhood that my child is afforded?

"If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will."

- Mother Theresa

While it may be overwhelming to consider the suffering of many people, it’s much more manageable and actionable when focusing on the needs of just one individual. This underscores the importance of personal connection and compassion in addressing the suffering and needs of others. The most difficult step is connecting the overwhelming need of humankind to a personal call to action. Once this connection is made, though, action is just one step in front of the other—over and over again. This action, over time, is moral character. 

Moral Character: A Personal Call to Action
Every so often, I create a list of blog topics to help me plan my writing schedule weeks and months in advance of releasing them. I don’t always know what I want to say about a given topic, but inspiration is easier to come by if I have a topic around which to begin forming my ideas. Months ago, inspired by an article by Adam Grant on raising a moral child, I planned to write about moral character.

Moral character is an analysis of an individual's steady moral qualities–what is right or wrong, acceptable or not, within the context of a person’s life, reality, and culture. Character is the combination of attitudes and actions that a person expresses, like empathy, courage, fortitude, honesty, loyalty, and habits. The question, for me, is what role is moral character playing in the planet-wide, contention-filled cultural shift that we are experiencing today?

I didn’t intend to take a heavy hand—"moral people only do this and never do that” sort of thing. Instead, I wanted to reflect on how morality is entrenched in culture and encourage readers to think about:

  • To what extent is moral character important to you?
  • How do you judge others based on their demonstration of moral character, particularly leaders?
  • What shapes your moral character?
  • What practices do you have for getting close enough to people (physical proximity, level and quality of interpersonal engagement, emotional connection, and vulnerability) to truly bear witness to their full humanity? 
  • How do you hold yourself and others accountable for their moral character?
  • If you were going to create a mini-festo that reflects your moral character, what would it say?

Then I found Shiloh on the floor with his eyes rolled back and a pool of blood around his head. 

My thinking about moral character immediately shifted from being an intellectual exercise to a visceral one. My high-level “care for others” came crashing down on me as I experienced real despair and helplessness. From this place, I wrote this mini-festo on moral character. It’s just my first draft and I vow to hold it close and revise it as needed over my life: 

My moral character is not fully reflected by the amount of care I hold in my heart. It is, instead, my willingness to act; to choose to bear witness and make choices that allow more access to others without feeling threatened by their improved circumstances. I want for others’ comforts as I want for my own, free from suffering and imposed burden, and able to flourish in the pursuit of contentment.  My morality is tied to recognition that I am, and we are, part of a human family. Not all members of every family are compatible every day. There is jealousy, pettiness, and conflict to go around. But a human family that is going to survive, in my opinion, requires we, at a minimum, are willing to see each other—which requires looking beyond my own immediate pain or pleasure and actually giving a damn about something besides my own comforts.

My mini-festo is a great starting point. It catalyzes me to act—I wrote it with clear language that leaves no room for ambiguity about what actions must follow. It also provides me guidance on how I want to show up for others and how I can engage in ways that set an expectation for accountability. It is centered on activating my agency and balanced with genuine care for others—at the scale of one person or all of humanity.

As you continue to navigate your day-to-day feelings, from gratitude to indignation to potential apathy, I encourage you to pause and ground yourself. Think about what you think. Make a commitment, a course of action, let your impact be intentional and in the service of pursuing an intentional path anchored by your moral character. 

Together, we can be good. We can be healthy. We can be whole. We can be. 


Tons of love from me to you, 



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