June 13, 2024

Wired for Responsibility

I’ve begun looking forward to my birthday coming up. (6/23) I had one celebration in April and because I’m turning 70, I’ll be having a few more. Like 7 in total for all the different decades. Seems about right. For now, my sweet sister and I are the same age. Yeah. Twins for 11 days. She’s a good human being to share this time with.

My parents were married at 17 and a year later had me and not quite a year later my sister etc… and so on until there were 8 of us and my mom said “enough”. “When the Pope has a child I’ll have another”. Or words to that effect. Thirty years old. Eight kids. Most 30 year olds I know do well to manage a job and a dog. I can’t think of one who could be parent to 8 kids and work full time. For years and years. My mom is made of strong stuff. She’s an oldest daughter. There’s a lot written about us “first daughters” and responsibility. Most of it – of course – is about the “damage” of assigning too much responsibility to a child. This annoys me greatly. We pathologize every challenge. I benefited from early training. Character forming.

I come from a family where being “The Oldest” meant responsibility. It was a title and no way to step out of it. As “The Oldest” I grew serious early and thought I was responsible for everybody. Basically wired for responsibility and challenge. This has not changed. Though it is proportionate now. And I appreciate that by the time I became an adult I’d been practicing for a long time. Look after everyone around you. And you. It doesn’t mean I always did it well. But I never try to duck it.

People who don’t think about the impact they have on others, who don’t just automatically try to pick up the slack in tough situations, people who duck responsibility make me a bit crazy. Imagine thinking someone’s coming along to take care of you. I can’t.

I still wish everyone would just extend their idea of responsibility just a little bit beyond their property line, their “boundaries”, their lane, position, etc… just a bit beyond means we’re prepared to help where needed. When asked.

I am not afraid of the turmoil and upheaval in the world. This is earth not heaven. I do fear a world in which people think their responsibility stops at their front door. A world without solidarity and generosity.

The recent storms in Houston reminded me that as a species the majority of people show up for others. Help without being told to. Bring their tools and skills next door and down the street and into the arena to assist where they can.

Reality is on the ground. Not in the headlines.

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