Working by the Sweat of His Brow

I’m not sure where you reside, or if you are burdened with these issues, and I certainly hope not, but there’s no doubt crime is on the rise where I reside–in the city of Houston.  Statistics are not only rising, but startling. According to Neighborhood Scout (2000-2014) one can become victimized by crime at a rate of 60 per 1000 residents. Houston has the highest crime rate in America compared to all communities of all sizes. The chances of becoming a victim of either violent or property crime is 1/17 (Neighborhood Scout, 2000-2014).

For me the realization of these events has become increasingly distracting, and quite fearful.  I’ve begun to notice this more recently due to listening to the morning news. Each morning when we arise, and as a part of our morning routine, my husband turns the television on. Our intent is to capture the weather so as to prepare for proper dress, but we also take notice of other events taking place about us. News reporters spurt out newsflashes and overnight updates of one criminal act after another.  This is quite disturbing, to say the very least.

I’ve learned however, to map my course. Journeying to the grocery or gas pump has now become a job. I have to watch my every move, my back (so to speak), and clutch onto my purse strings. Lord forbid, if my small child is in tow. I’ve learned to practice certain tactics with her if ever distressed.  The reality of this is a “sad state of affairs.”

Yes, I know that crime isn’t new to any of us, but as of late it appears that our communities are inundated with corruption and deceit. Seemingly, these criminals have no care, or regard for the lives of others, and lack a sense of remorsefulness. I have to wonder the mind-sets of the men (generally speaking) who choose to go this route. I have to wonder about the ethics and morals of such individuals and why they feel the right, and privilege to take from others rather than work for the goods they desire. What ever happened to men “working by the sweat of one’s brow?” Wouldn’t they value and cherish their articles more? To take it a step further, how can a man feel good about one-self enjoying possessions that aren’t his?  Where did this sense of entitlement come from?

As I reflect on this topic and the questions that constantly race through my mind these days of recent, I ponder about ethics, morals, and moral principles. I realize, perhaps, most people may use these two words interchangeably, but actually they have two distinct meanings, so I’ll define them.


Ethics:  A set of principles of right behaviors or manners. The rules or standards that lead or regulate the conduct of a person

Morals:  Relates to what a person thinks is right/wrong or good/bad.

When I think about the differences in these two definitions, I have to surmise that a person is morally good according to their personal worldview, or perception of what they believe to be just or right for them. Still, I have to ask, how does one get to this point? What is it that drives one to rob, kill, and cause bodily harm to another? Why would a man commit home invasions — kicking his brotherly neighbor’s front door in, holding the owner’s hostage and taking all their worldly possessions? What happened to his ethics, or did he ever acquire ethics?

Moral issues are the business of our obligation, and debt to each other, but  they also comprise just or fair treatment towards one another, and what rights we have one to another. It appears some of us “got it” while others did not.

Although it may be too late for some, perhaps we can start afresh with our young, teaching them to become ethically and morally reasonable citizens in our society/communities.

With this in mind, it is my judgment that we should be about the business of teaching our children how to conduct themselves morally. I’d like to pose a few tips of how to embed a sense of moral principles within our children, for it is my hope to make a difference, if only a smidgen.

Tips for Teaching Effective Moral Principles

  • Parents should begin by explaining what morals entail. Afterwards, outline targeted principles. These can be taught in phases so that children can have time to practice and take ownership of the lesson.
  • Teach children how to become in-tuned to their feelings and the feelings of family members and playmates. Parents can create imaginary situations, so that children will have the opportunity to get their feelings “in-check.”  This will also allow children to recognize and grasp their feelings and emotions.
  • During interactions with others is a great time to teach how to play fair and recognize the feelings of others. This is a great time to teach how to share and take turns, and also work on potential bullying behaviors.
  • Be sure to implement a plan for accepting consequences for actions. There are rules (laws of the land), and everyone is responsible for abiding by regulations put in place by lawmakers.

Am I “preaching to the choir” here?” If so, how can we reach the neighborhoods and families we know needs to hear and learn these lessons, or will we have to rely and depend on our teachers to help reach and instill within our children moral principles?

These tips and messages can be used for anyone who lives in a city plagued with crime and contention.

Together, we can make a difference in the lives of young children in a desperate attempt to end crime sprees, and vicious crime cycles in our communities. Surely with well thought-out teachings, our children will harbor moral principles that will be instilled within them for a lifetime.

It is my hope that through teachings and role modeling, we can turn Houston crime, and crime in like cities around.


Cherrye Vasquez

Cherrye Vasquez

About the author

Author, Cherrye Vasquez, has a Ph.D. in Curriculum & Instruction; a Master of Ed in Special Education; and a BA in Speech Pathology/Audiology. Vasquez specializes in Multi-cultural education and holds certifications in Early Childhood Handicapped, Mid-Management and Educational Diagnostician.

Vasquez is passionate about empowering children, so her platform centers on diversity and bullying issues. She feels strongly that if children are empowered and armed with the tools needed for a deep love of self and self-identity, they will be able to withstand life’s challenges, including bullies.

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12 thoughts on “Working by the Sweat of His Brow

  1. Kenneth Weene

    If we don’t effectively teach morality to our children, our society will eventually disintegrate into a dog-eat-dog world. That would be a shame. However, morality without ethics is not viable. Ethical education as I understand it helps the individual to formulate her/his own goals and pathways. Ethics tend to be more abstract while morality is more day to day. So, my ethics say try to give back to the world in which I live. My morals make me stop to help that lady who has trouble getting the shopping cart back to its place.

    1. Dr. Andy Rose

      Dear Cherrye,

      I read your article. As a child advocate, you continue to do wonderful work.

      Permit me to reflect a bit on the issue of violence in America. My thoughts are political/economic in nature and the impact on race.

      Here goes: poverty deprives people of making decent wages. This is growing rapidly in America today because the huge corporations have learned that they can get cheaper labor by exporting jobs abroad. That has led to increasing numbers of unemployed men and women. This has impacted, disproportionately on certain racial groups.

      Drug use has also been a fail “War” despite the proclamations of successive presidents and Congress. Again, economics prevail of police state tactics. I highly urge you to watch a DVD documentary: “The House I Live In.” It is by Eugene Jarecki. We borrowed our copy from the local library. The film’s theme is that: “The war on drugs has never been about drugs.”

      I am not optimistic about improvement because of the capitalistic system unique to the USA.

      Sorry to be negative. See the film and let’s chat!

      Andy Rose

  2. James Secor

    Neighborhood Scout is, by its own site, “Real estate resources for those considering buying a home. Use customized neighborhood searches and find pre-screened real estate agents.” i’m sure that there is bias and prejudice here, not only the lust for money. True, I’m somewhat cynical; but it seems self-evident.
    Two:- if the only things reported is crime and violence, then that’s what you will see and it will can be used to manipulate your behavior. All we hear about is crime and violence; this makes for a violent society. Our pop culture teaches violence/crime as the way to deal with problems. This is like a scientist with a theory that he believes explains everything and, so, imposes this view in his experiments and on the world; anything that does not fit is tossed out. Like stuffing square pegs into round holes in our beloved Fisher-Price workbenches because, well, there are holes there so they should go. So, yes. pop culture affects society; and then it develops into a Moebius Strip and it becomes impossible to tell which came first. This is the thesis of my dissertation; however, it was overlooked for the more accessible vehicle: women and ethics in theatre.
    People interested in power and control first lie, then create the means to prove their outlook. Those kinds of people have no ethics and no morals. Some might say they are sociopaths, the new name for psychopaths.
    No matter how nice it is to talk of ethics and morals, it is in the doing that the lesson resides. At the moment, I do not believe there are enough of such good people to make a difference, despite news items that are not given priority. And a nationwide or world view of changing things is unproductive: you need to focus on your own territory.
    jimsecor, PhD, and Det. Lupee: The Impossible Cases in which Lupee doesn’t impose a preconceived view on his world and discusses these very issues you raise; so, too, does Minna vander Pfaltz at

  3. Trish Jackson


    Great advice. If only more parents would take an active role in raising their children it would make a huge difference to our society. Teaching them how to behave decently would be a natural part of being a parent to most of us.

  4. Kenneth Weene

    As one of the editors of The Write Room Blog, I received this comment from Micki Peluso and wanted to share it for her.
    Wonderful statements on the state of our cities and towns, and desertaions on finding the solutions. One other problem is that ‘ethics’ and “morals’ make strange bedfellows. What is moral or ethical to one group of people is not necessarily so in another. With the diversification in the citizens of this country, this can cause misunderstandings on many levels.

    As you point out, the best way to teach morals and ethics to our children is to live them ourselves. While instilling our moral concepts we must let them be aware of other’s concepts, which are often different. Yet criminal behavior within all groups is on the rise and this must be addressed before we lose total control. No child of any ethnic group ever comes into the world with the notion to be a crinimal. It’s up to parents and teachers to figure out how we caused this mess and deal with fixing it. No one else can.

  5. Toi Thomas

    I pretty much agree with everything this articles says, but I fell there is major point missing. Just as I’ve said in the past concerning bullying, people don’t teach their kids to do things they don’t do themselves. Just as kids learn how to bully from the adults around them, they learn to develop a moral code that suits them. Making efforts to teach in kids in schools the right things are great, but it’s their parents and relatives that need to be taught first- and we all know that it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks, especially if they aren’t in the mood to learn.
    I’m not sure of the best way to resolve this matter, but I think I’d start by treating adults like children while respecting them as adults. There should be outreach programs set up remold and restructure the minds of adults, but it’s a lot harder to get a grown person to come to a program than a kid. For the most part, parents enjoy dropping their kids off to “programs” because it gives them a few hours of free child care. The magic trick to pulling off the same feat for adults would be offering them something they’d be willing to leave their couches for- I simply don’t know what that could be.
    It may not sound like I have hope for the future, but I have to believe that some children will and can be reached despite their home situation and perhaps their good decisions will rub off on someone back home.
    Unless we can reach kids in their homes, I don’t know how much we can really do.

  6. John B. Rosenman

    Cherrye, this is a highly important essay on a crucial subject. It reminds me of C. S. Lewis’s essay, “The Law of Right and Wrong,” in which he argues that all people, regardless of culture, share a deeply seated belief in certain moral (or ethical?) beliefs. Well, I’m not so sure. Certainly, we’re in a fine mess. You ask if these criminals’ consciences don’t bother them when they take possessions from honest people which they didn’t work for and have no right to, maybe hurting or even killing them in the process. Here’s my answer.

    Many and perhaps most of them do not. All they care about is getting what you have as easily as they can. To them you’re a fool, a chump, and a loser if they can get what you have without working for it. They’ll laugh all the way to the fence where they’ll sell it for a fraction of its value or whatever it is they’ll do with it. And to these criminals, the only sin is getting caught. That’s it in a nutshell. This is especially true for major politicians and CEO’s with multi-million dollar year salaries. They feel especially bad about being exposed for the frauds they are and having their images stripped bare for the tawdry fiction it is. For to them, this fiction is everything. Most of these frauds sleep like babies at night. And if they have a twinge of conscience now and then, well, hey, it’s the least they can give to the cause, which happens to be themselves.

    Your essay is wonderful and deserves to be widely read and heeded. It examines and analyzes a growing and worsening problem and proposes a solution of parents teaching their children crucial lessons which I fear and suspect most Americans will never do sufficiently well. For America, despite its admirable strengths, is diseased at its core and won’t address its major societal problems directly enough. Regrettably, in the end, crime is not the only one.

    Sorry if I sound pessimistic. But this is the way I see it.

  7. James L. Secor

    Neighborhood Scouts is, as its website maintains, “Real estate resources for those considering buying a home. Use customized neighborhood searches and find pre-screened real estate agents. . . .” Such resources have been, in the past, decided racist–as in looking for “the best areas.” They are definitely manipulative. I wonder if they jockey around with statistics? Delinda McCann’s got a nice piece about stats and their misinterpretation at her website.

  8. Rosemary "Mamie" Adkins


    I am so sorry to be late with my reply but have been away and otherwise tied up.

    This was a great share and well told story of crime. This is one problem we have all over the country and it is no different from our small town of 100,000 people.

    We have been victims of violent crimes and fear when we leave our home so we have taken up arms and carry. Our intent-to never be assaulted again and protect our lives. It is sad that more people do not teach their children early on the respect of others and it shows in todays lack of compassion or even respect for others. It is also sad to us that to protect oneself you must take your own measures to be safe.

    We are not sure if we would ever use our weapons but we have learned how to handle them and how to protect ourselves so I imagine that should it be our life or our family, there leaves little doubt we will not be victims again.

    Hopefully one day our future generations will learn how to live amongst us that want to respect life and get along in society.

    Great story!


  9. Linda Hales

    I have to wonder if much of the problem is because parents can’t teach what they don’t know themselves or never learned because of the generational effect. Of course, It’s never all that simple. Empathy toward others seems to be non-existent in those families where a parent measures his or her (or their) success by the physical evidence of so-called love that they provide to their children and not the invisible, intangible values they are morally obliged to teach and impart to them. Example is always the best teacher and children deserve the best example possible. Instead , such parents measure their own success by the dollar value of the merchandise they heap upon their children in lieu of the love they should be exemplifying to them. I’ve always admired cultures that provide formal training for new parents and even values training to the children. This is sadly lacking in our culture because of the inconsistencies in cultural values and all too often, unprepared kids are flying by the seats of their pants in navigating the trials of life. I would be a strong advocate for mandatory parenting courses and better life skills training in our educational system. Hopefully, in time this would become the norm and the parents who need to know, will know.


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