Yesterday was George Washington's birthday. And how do we celebrate the birth of the father of our country? Well, most of us probably just treat it like it's another day. But when you work in a kindergarten classroom for a good portion of your day, there's a good chance you have to hear the classic tale of young GW chopping down his dad's cherry tree.
You've heard the story, right? Little Georgie goes out and, for no apparent reason, maliciously hacks away at a blossoming cherry tree. When confronted about the incident, young Master Washington says, "I cannot tell a lie," and confesses to moonlighting as a lumberjack.
Did you know that there's a good chance that this event never actually happened? It was a story popularized back in the 19th century by a biographer who never really authenticated the anecdote. To discover that this is probably not a true story, we simply need to ask one question. How many people have become president by telling the truth?
But it was a popular story. And why shouldn't it be? It's a story that lets our children know that our first president was once a kid too. And, on the surface, it teaches the lesson that it's important to tell the truth. Then why to we reserve the nickname of "Honest" for Abe Lincoln?
Personally, I think this is a horrible story to tell kids. Dig a little deeper. The moral I see is: 'Tis better to ask forgiveness than permission. Dude cut down a tree, got caught, and then decided not to lie to cover it up. That just means he was a smart kid. I've been around plenty of children who lie to cover up something they know was wrong and all it gets them is into more trouble. If they'd just told the truth to begin with, the penalty would have been far less severe.
So George got pissed off at this cherry tree and no one knows why. Maybe he got hungry one day, picked some cherries, and was disappointed that they weren't the kind that were already pitted. He decided that the tree had to go. But do you think his father would have just said, "Sure, son, go cut the crap outta that tree! I don't even like cherries!" No, his father loved cherries. His mother could make a mean cherry pie. And who wouldn't like to pick some fresh cherries to throw into your ice cold Coca-Cola? Little George Washington, that's who. So he cut it down. He couldn't cover it up, and I don't think he ever planned to. He knew he would have to fess up. But by then, the tree was gone. George had rid the would-be United States of that particular tree's evil presence. And all he had to do was say he was sorry.
How disappointed do you think President Washington would be if he knew that our nation's capital holds an annual festival celebrating a bunch of cherry trees? Think about it.