QUESTION: Tell me why some kids with every advantage and opportunity seem to turn out bad, while others raised in terrible homes become pillars in the community? I know one young man who grew up in squalid circumstances, yet he is a fine person today. How did his parents manage to raise such a responsible son when they didn't even seem to care?
DR. DOBSON: That illustrates an important point. Neither heredity nor environment will account for all human behavior. There is something else there - something from within - that operates to make us who we are. Some behavior is caused and some plainly isn't.
Several years ago, I had dinner with two parents who had unofficially "adopted" a 13-year-old boy. This youngster followed their son home one afternoon and asked if he could spend the night. As it turned out, he stayed with them for almost a week without so much as a phone call from his mother. It was later learned that she works 16 hours a day and has no interest in her son. Her alcoholic husband divorced her several years prior and left town without a trace. The boy had been abused, unloved and ignored through much of his life.
Given this background, what kind of kid do you think he is today? A druggie? A foul-mouthed delinquent? A lazy, insolent bum? No. He is polite to adults; he is a hard worker; he makes good grades in school and enjoys helping around the house. This boy was like a lost puppy who desperately wanted a good home. He begged the family to officially adopt him so he could have a real father and a loving mother. His own mom couldn't have cared less.
How could this teenager be so well-disciplined and polished despite his lack of training? I don't know. It is simply within him. He reminds me of my wonderful friend David Hernandez. David and his parents came to America illegally from Mexico more than 50 years ago and nearly starved to death before they found work. They eventually survived by helping to harvest the potato crop throughout the state of California. During this era, David lived under trees or in the open fields. His father made a stove out of an oil drum half-filled with dirt. The open campfire was the centerpiece of their home.
David never had a roof over his head until his parents finally moved into an abandoned chicken coop. His mother covered the boarded walls with cheap wallpaper, and David thought they were living in luxury. Then one day, the city of San Jose condemned the area and David's "house" was torn down. He couldn't understand why the community would destroy so fine a place.
We'll talk more about David's story next week.