Monday, November 28, 2011

Goodwill, Will Good (From the Cleveland Post, December 30, 2010)

"Good Will. Will Good"

By K. S. Volcjak

Goodwill. It is a Christmas word, but it has been rattling around in my head since my son had to memorize the Law of the Pack to earn his Bobcat Badge in Cub Scouts earlier this fall. 'The Cub Scout gives goodwill' is the last line in the Law of the Pack.

It stuck in my head because 'gives goodwill' is an awkward way of putting it. 'Goodwill' is a thing, but 'will' is an action. How do you give an action?

Yeah, I know I'm over-thinking this. They're first graders.

But it bugged me.

In search of clarity, I Googled the definition of 'goodwill.'

Would you believe the first hits listed had to do with money? "Goodwill: An intangible asset which provides a competitive advantage, such as a strong brand, reputation, or high employee morale. In an acquisition, goodwill appears on the balance sheet of the acquirer in the amount by which the purchase price exceeds the net tangible assets of the acquired company." (from

More to the point, defined goodwill as "A kindly feeling of approval or support; benevolent interest or concern." 'Support' is helpful, but 'feeling' and 'approval' most definitely are not. The great struggles of humanity often include reconciling 'feeling' with 'will' or 'The Right Thing To Do'.

(As in: I knew I should joyfully thank my grandmother for the vest she lovingly crocheted to be my Christmas gift, but the ugly colors drained my joy and challenged my will. I loved her, so I thanked her the best I could.)

I played around with the definitions and the word and the sentence. 'Love' is a thing and an action, similar to 'goodwill.' But we say "I love," not "I give love." So "The Cub Scout wills --good?"

This is a step forward, for me. Still, how to explain it to a first grader?

I tried some examples out in imaginary conversations with my son. "Well, when somebody on your team makes a mistake, you encourage them to do better next time because you know they did their best."

"But Mom, what if he didn't do his best? What if he was goofing off?"

I swear children are born lawyers. "Well,...." I think a moment. "Okay, how about this. You are lining up at school and the guy behind you bumps you with his lunch box. When he says it was an accident, you believe him. That is giving goodwill."

"But Mom, Lily Lovenote is behind me in line and she always bumps me with her lunch box on purpose and she doesn't mean it when says it was an accident."

Children have no grasp of the hypothetical. You'd think I'd remember this by now.

On the other hand, sometimes I give up too soon. I tried again.

"How do you know she always does it on purpose?"

"Because she usually has this smirk on her face."


"Well, there was that one time when Tylersaurus Rex bumped into the whole back of the line and made her bump into me. Fall on me, actually."

'On purpose' or accident. Mean or clumsy. Liar or not. Here is a clue, a place to start.

"Okay." I said. "Do you want Lily to get in trouble for something she didn't do?"


"Giving goodwill means that you want things to be fair even for people who make you mad sometimes."

"I guess."

It's a start.

Goodwill. Will good. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" (including staying out of the way!). "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." The circle grows, as it must for those who ponder the words and listen to the angels, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward men."

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