I lured my sons into the garage recently to help me look for some long-lost document with the promise of buried treasure. We never found the document I was looking for. However, while sorting through some of my father's old papers that were mixed up with mine, I came across something entitled "The Seven Rs Pledge."
I don't know who wrote it or from where it comes. It was just a Xeroxed piece of paper that my father had tucked away someplace and forgotten. It also seemed to articulate rather well the lessons I am trying to teach my sons.
"I will honor my history by living by the social conduct of my fore parents. I will vow to make the place where I live and learn better.
"I vow to live a religious life always seeking to do what is morally right and good.
"I will respect my parents, teachers and other elders in the community and in so doing, I will respect my peers and myself.
"I will take responsibility for my conduct to give of my talents, my knowledge and skills to make the world a better place to live.
"I will restrain myself from doing anything wrong that would embarrass my family, my school, my community or myself.
"I will reciprocate. I will give back in kindness that which I have received because this is the only way to the good life.
"I will live in the rhythm of oneness and wholeness with the universe, always creating oneness, joy and peace.
"I will live a life of redemption, recognizing that life always offers a second chance to redeem the mistakes of the past.
"I will live the seven 'Rs' in my daily life because I will shape history, I will decide the future and I will take my people to the victorious shores of our destiny."
The pledge also has great resonance for adults. If time alone has not seen fit to provide essential wisdom, the pledge makes clear the nexus between virtue and happiness. The forward movement of our people to victorious shores requires strong families and strong communities, and that requires strong faith. Our communities are safer, more productive and more joyful when we as individuals practice moral virtue.
Some will be quick to retort that morality has nothing to do with faith in God. However, the pledge requires a religious life for good reason. Morality emanates from an acknowledgment of an objective truth — that is to say, a truth that is higher than man-made laws. It is a truth that is the same for all people everywhere, no matter their race, class or time in history.
Contrary to what some would have us believe, the rights we claim are dependent not on government, but on the recognition that those rights come from God. They are dependant on the recognition that with those rights come responsibilities.
I think I will hang this pledge on the wall in my office and in my sons' play room. It will be a constant reminder of the kind of men we should strive to become. It will also remind us that treasure isn't always silver and gold. Sometimes it comes in the form of words written on plain white paper.
Joseph C. Phillips is an actor and writer based in Los Angeles.