“Why in the world do you walk sideways like that?” said a mother crab to her son. “You should always walk straight forward with your toes turned out.”
“Show me how to walk, Mother Dear,” answered the little crab obediently. “I want to learn.”
So the old crab tried and tried to walk straight forward but she could only walk sideways like her son. And when she wanted to turn her toes out, she tripped and fell on her nose.
The moral: Do not tell others how to act unless you can set a good example.
“Each morning before I start lecturing, I read one of Aesop\'s Fables to illustrate moral values,” says marine biology associate professor Lee F. Braithwaite, ’59. “One year I decided to read them in class, and the students won’t let me stop.”
Some 16 hours from Provo, immersed in a different physical and spiritual environment, students in the marine biology term in Monterey, Calif., are offered a chance to learn and grow, tutored by their quiet but impressive friend, professor, and advisor. Braithwaite is on call 24 hours a day to guide them through any crisis, be it academic, physical, spiritual or personal.
“Dr. B. is, by nature, a very quiet person,” says Robert J. Seymour, ’03, who returned to Monterey in 2002 for his second season with Braithwaite, this time as a diver and teaching assistant. But Braithwaite’s somewhat reserved personality does not prevent him from developing close relationships with his students, and Seymour says the professor regularly shares his wisdom on matters unrelated to the sea. “Every morning it goes prayer, scripture, Aesop’s fable. And he says that should be the order of priority in our lives.”
Braithwaite’s personal example also influences students. “Seeing his daily life is really what hit me, what changed my life,” says Seymour. “He’s a professor that really does apply all the principles of good living and helps you be a better person.”
Class comedian Whitney B. Wright, ’03, also shares a personal bond with Braithwaite. “I really enjoyed just hanging out with Dr. B. Once I was not feeling well, and he gave me a priesthood blessing. He crossed the threshold of student-teacher relationship there. I really respected that, and I loved him for it because of how sweetly he talked to me. I could tell that he really loved me not just because I took his class but for who I am.”
Melissa A. Tillack, ’94, a former student of Braithwaite’s who is now completing a PhD in Florida, relates this modern-day fable of kindness and wisdom: “There are nine big aquaria I took care of in the basement of the Widstoe Building on BYU campus. At the end of one of the tanks, there was a really big lobster. One day, there was a mother that came by with her three children, pushing a baby carriage. Dr. B. and I were behind the tanks but close enough to overhear the mother saying, ‘Oh, look at this big crab. Isn’t it neat?’
“And her children look closely and say, ‘Yes, Mother. What a great crab.’
“I say to Dr. B., ‘Should I go tell them that it’s a lobster and then show them the other things?’
“And he says, ‘No, don’t do it. It’s more important that you don’t take away the mother’s credibility in front of her children. And it really doesn’t matter whether it’s a lobster or a crab.’”
The moral, according to Tillack: “I guess it’s the kindness to people and seeing what’s really important in life, instead of proving you’re the greatest. It’s not about ego at all. It’s just about the pause, the thoughtfulness.”
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