Addiction, NA, Narcotics Anonymous, Recovery, Spiritual Principles, Twelve Steps

Integrity and Nerf Gun Incentives

Last weekend we held Shaun’s tenth birthday party. What a time it was! During the early planning stages of the party, we had asked Shaun about themes for his party. He wanted it to be a Nerf gun party.

Shaun and I have ridden to a local park together on our tandem bicycle, where we have had several fun Nerf battles in the past few months. These battles became the basis of his birthday party plans. He wanted a giant Nerf battle among friends for his party.

To make things fair, Amanda and I purchased 36 identical Nerf guns. Enough for each attendee to have one. Then there were the darts, 400 of them! Was this ever going to be fun.

Amanda had reserved one of the shelters at a nearby park for the day. It was an otherwise very simple party. We had cake and drinks. Not much else. In reality, not much else was needed. Those Nerf guns kept the kids busy from the moment the party started.

There was, of course, one little challenge. Picking up 400 Nerf darts from all around the park would be a daunting task. Regardless, it had to be done. Leaving them scattered about, littering the park was not an option.

Amanda suggested a simple solution. Make a contest out of picking up the darts. Let the kids know that along with their new Nerf guns, they could take home whatever darts they found. Great idea Babe!!!

When it was time to pick up, I had the children gather around so I could explain the rules of our final contest. I took time to explain that it would be wrong to leave the darts behind. That we needed to do the right thing and collect all the darts.

They were excited to learn that they would get to keep their guns and any darts they found. I decided to sweeten the pot a little by offering a $10 prize to the child who found the most darts.

I would never have imagined how big a child’s eyes would get over a $10 bill. Talk about motivation! As soon as I shouted “go” they were off and running. They covered every inch of that park, retrieving darts from all sorts of places.

As I did my final walk-through of the park, not a single dart could be found. The boys had done an excellent job of finding darts. The final contest had been a success. The party had been a success. We were so grateful to have had the chance to throw Shaun the party that he had envisioned.

The other parents at the party kept commenting about our idea for picking up darts, and how creative it had been. To Amanda and me, it seemed like such a common sense solution. After all, we didn’t want to be the ones scouring the park for darts after all the children left, and while Shaun was in a food coma from too much icing and fruit drink! We wanted help, and we had plenty of young hands to provide that help.

As it turned out, getting those children to help, to do the right thing, was easy. They needed to know what they were to do, and why they were to do it. Offering an incentive made getting them to focus on doing the right thing easy.

Looking back on that final contest, Amanda and I had not set out to provide those children with a lesson on integrity. All we wanted was help picking up darts. In the end, though, I think each of those children had fully bought into their mission. Not only did the pick up all of those darts, but they actually had fun doing so. They had fun doing the right thing for the right reason.

Oh, but Kent, you tipped the scales. You bribed those little rascals with Nerf guns, darts, and money.

Guilty as charged. I did do those things. However, I would contend that all those things simply mirror the real world benefits of acting with integrity. As adults, doing the right thing for the right reason typically comes with a reward attached. Even if that reward is a simple “thank you” received for holding a door open for the next person at the store, the reward is there.

Learning that doing the right things in life will lead to a rewarding life helps to make doing the next right thing easy. Pretty soon, we find ourselves doing the right thing even when no one is looking because we have experienced the benefits of doing so. That is integrity!

Integrity was in short supply in my life during active addiction. Over time, the integrity that my parents had instilled in me from my earliest days as a child had been sacrificed to drugs. My values had become skewed. So much of what I did was motivated by my desire for more drugs. Little if any thought was given to what was right or wrong.

When I found the rooms of Narcotics Anonymous, I found the most incredible examples of integrity. I found a place where people were pitching in to help one another. A place where cell phones could be left sitting on a table unattended and would definitely still be there upon their owner’s return. A place where ladies handbags were left open, and yet never taken. A place where doing the next right thing had become the rule rather than the exception.

Of course, a huge part of this security comes from the fact that recovering addicts have each other’s backs. When a phone is left unattended by its owner, you can rest assured that friends are keeping an eye open. If someone tried to take it, they would be met with a stern reminder of the integrity that is expected in the rooms.

I am so grateful for the examples of integrity I see regularly in NA. This program, and the people in it, continually teach me about integrity, and its importance. I regularly witness not only integrity, but also the rewards that come with it.

We refer to such rewards as the “benefits of recovery.” We write them down in gratitude lists as a reminder to ourselves of the power of integrity. We share about them in meetings so that others can be encouraged to act with integrity. We even teach them to our children, so that they understand the need for integrity in all our affairs.

Have a remarkable day!


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