When we enter this world, we’re not responsible for anything. Someone else takes care of all our needs. Someone had to or I wouldn’t be here writing this and you wouldn’t be here reading this. Someone helped us and guided us.
As a child, I learned about responsibility. My parents doled out “chores” to all of us as we grew older. We’d bitch and moan but if we didn’t pull our weight, there were consequences. Something was taken away from us or we were “punished” in some form or another. I didn’t have a perfect childhood — who does — but I learned plenty about responsibility.
I Made Mistakes — Who’s Responsible?
As a young woman, I learned that the choices I made had consequences as well. Some were right, some were wrong, but through some of the most difficult and painful times in my life, despite my mistakes, someone helped me. Even when I’d keep making the same ones over and over, someone believed in me. It was family, a friend, a stranger, but someone decided I was worth it and gave me chances to do better. They didn’t think I was worthless just because I wasn’t doing what they thought I should.
As an adult, I realize that we get caught up in perceptions and we judge others. I do it, you do it. We don’t mean to but we size up people — from their dialect, their income, their ethnicity, the way they dress, they way they move through life. Our perceptions get skewed sometimes, I think, from the way in which other lifestyles, other than the ones we’re familiar with, are represented — through the media, from politicians, leaders, teachers, religion — we filter it through what we believe in.
A Viewpoint From Someone I Don’t Know
I read an article last month in the The New York Times, “I Was a Welfare Mother,” which was the impetus for this post.
This lady went through some rough patches and yes, it had to do with some of the choices she’d made. She’d messed up but she decided she wanted to do better, for herself and for her son. Her parents were middle-class, “Great Depression children, both ex-marines…they’d always taught self-reliance.” As she said, “. . .I had grown up hearing that anyone on the dole was scum.”
She found herself in circumstances where she had to accept welfare. She went to school, worked, graduated and nearly 40 years later, she’s remarried written books and paid off her college loans. She said that she and her husband pay big chunks of taxes and have raised a hard-working son that’s does the same. She said, “My country gave me the chance to rebuild my life — paying my tax tab is the only thing it’s asked of me in return.”
I know that everyone on welfare doesn’t have this success story. And yes, I realize that it’s messed up, there’s corruption and those of us who’ve worked our entire lives, pay taxes and then witness people who don’t seem to “pull their weight” or take responsibility, receive entitlements, we wonder why that is. We begin to have an “us against them” stance.
But I don’t know all of them, but I’m certain not all abuse it. There are decent and honest people who just need help sometimes and a chance to better themselves. They’re trying to take responsibility but I also think it’s our responsibility to help.
It’s difficult not to judge sometimes, isn’t it? We’d all like to think what we would do, how we’d take responsibility for this or that. Maybe sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way.
Four Freedoms for Everyone
I watched CBS Sunday Morning yesterday and New York City has a new FDR Memorial that sits in the middle of the East River on Roosevelt Island. It has the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” Speech etched in an enormous stone. It is this:
Four fundamental freedoms that people “everywhere in the world should enjoy:”
Freedom of speech and expression
Freedom of worship
Freedom from want
Freedom from fear
I understand that this was a different time in our history, but I still think it applies today. It doesn’t matter if you believe in a Higher Power or not, our humanness, the core of us, is kindness, understanding and helping one another. I don’t think that ever changes either, at least I hope it never does.
Teddy Roosevelt said this: Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care. Lincoln said this: A house divided against itself cannot stand.
We’re all alike — really. We want to live in a country where we can succeed. We want our children to live in a place that is safe. We want to be treated fairly, rewarded for our efforts. I don’t know what the solution is to all of these problems that everyone is “fighting” about and it saddens me that the division between those beliefs have become so broad.
I think it’s our responsibility to try and figure it out and stop spreading emails or information that promote hatred or separateness even when we hear the absurd — I don’t think it does any good to give that absurdity any more weight or bring it to light by saying horrible things about this person or that. A rational exchange of ideas I think is our responsibility. And it’s difficult when you feel like someone or something is threatening you, your beliefs and your lifestyle. We get passionate about those things, as we should, but maybe we should do it with more compassion.
What do you think?
The Good, There’s Always Good
I’m going to end this post on a positive note. I think that this generation — the 20 and 30 something’s have an insight that our parents and maybe those of us who are older don’t have.
They are far more accepting of other people, beliefs, cultures. I’m grateful that they are able to connect with each other and I think they’re taking responsibility for bridging the gap between left and right. I’ve always considered myself an “independent” thinker and I cannot figure out how we got here — this huge division.
Despite the dire messages I get from both sides of the political agenda, (and the negative mud-slinging ) I believe that our country will go in the direction it needs to in order to be what’s it’s always been from that sonnet written in the 1800s by Emma Lazarus, etched on the Statue of Liberty:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
When we do the best we can, I think everyone needs to have a chance at that golden door.
Happy Monday everyone.
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My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness. — Dalai Lama