In fourth grade, we had to do these essay questions at the end of every health lesson. I remember them well because I couldn’t stand how they were worded. They’d ask you a question, something thought-provoking without a specific answer, like, “Do you think occasionally eating ice cream for dinner is a good idea?” (Yes!) And then, they’d ask the follow-up: “Why do you think as you do?” I always thought the follow-up question was awful. Why not just ask, “Why?” Simple. Pure.

answers postI made up a little song for “Why do you think as you do,” starting low on the scale, each word getting a higher note until you hit “think,” which is the highest, then back down the scale again lower and lower with “as you do.” Silly, but it made me happy.

And I remember one actual question, and only one, that was asked. It went something like, “The local T-Ball team needs new uniforms, and the local cigarette company is willing to donate the uniforms and a new scoreboard plus anything else the team needs for free, so long as the company’s logo can be put on the uniforms and scoreboard. Do you think the team should take the cigarette company’s offer? Why do you think as you do?” (You did the ditty, didn’t you? I did.)

As a fourth grader, I didn’t really understand this question. My initial answer was that the team should go for the deal. They didn’t have the money, anyhow. And kids weren’t going to take up cigarette smoking just because it was on their uniforms. Eventually I figured adults wouldn’t like it, the non-smokers at least, so I wrote that into my essay.

But this question bothered me, because I could see both sides. I had discovered early in the school year that the answers to the lesson questions were listed in the back of the book. I will admit that with one lesson, I took the fast track and just copied the answers. The following day in class, we reviewed the lesson, and I had no idea what it was about. It was a disservice to myself that I never repeated. But I did like to double-check my answers with the back of the book. Nothing wrong with learning the lesson and ensuring that I got it right, I thought. For essay questions, the back of the book gave pointers to think about before answering. For this one, it portrayed a strong moral stance against the cigarette company and its motives. It even offered solutions like a bake sale to pay for uniforms instead.

Flash forward 30 years to yesterday, when I read an online comment about how some NFL players donate to charities, so the NFL should allow them to continue to make money regardless of their actions because of the good their donations do. Suddenly the health book question from fourth grade popped into my mind, and this time I didn’t just see the issue, I understood it, and with passion.

Money is the fast track to getting results, which can actually be a disservice to who we are. If you don’t stand for something, you sit down for everything.

Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. Her current writing projects, including her daily blog endeavor, #Project365, can be found at