In Praise of Bribery

Why I’m shelling out for one of life’s best investments

I’m tucking an eight-year-old into bed. We’ve been throwing a baseball and eight o’clock has arrived too fast. “Sometimes I get sad,” he says as I pull the covers high. “Me too, Andrey. Whatcha thinking about?” He frowns and shakes his brown curls at my rhetorical question. I know what he’s thinking. Small boys shouldn’t face such adversity so early. A mother’s tragic death when he was five will always be part of his story.

“What are you thankful for tonight?” I ask.

“You guys,” he says, as the frown recedes. “And Mom and Dad.”

“They love you very much,” I say, smiling. “My parents didn’t pick me like yours did, you know.”

He’s smiling too now. “I think they would have picked you,” he says. “You’re okay.”

“Can you sleep?” “No,” he says. So I sit down on the edge of the bed. “I want you to close your eyes and listen to something.” He scrunches his peepers tight.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I have everything I need. He lets me lie down in green pastures…” (NCV). When I finish the most Googled Psalm, he opens his eyes wide. “I could see all of that,” he says.

“Would you like to have it in your head, so it will never leave?”

He smiles. “You can memorize it. Tell you what. I’ll pay you twenty bucks if you do.”

His eyes are wide again. “Twenty bucks!” he says.

A few days later, Andrey came to me with the world’s widest grin. “Grandpa,” he said, “I’d like to tell you something.” And he repeated Psalm 23. From memory.

So, I’m paying the kids to read and memorize the Bible. My dad did the same. Knowing that without divine guidance a shipwreck was heading my way, he bribed me. Now I’m doing the same. I’ve made some lousy investments along the way, but pouring time and cash into the grandkids with their parents’ blessing, is one of the best investments I’ll ever make.

So, I gathered the grandkids, had him recite it again, presented the boy a crisp Canadian twenty, and told the rest of them how to receive the same. Which sounds fantastic in theory. Until one does the math. Fourteen grandkids at a chapter a month is $3,360 a year. So to the guy who saw the bunch of us together and asked, “Are you guys Mormon or Catholic?” I’d like to say we’re exhausted and broke. But very, very happy.

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Phil Callaway

Phil Callaway, the host of Laugh Again, is an award-winning author and speaker, known worldwide for his humorous yet perceptive look at life.

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