Responsibility’s Reach, Irresponsibility's Toll

thewonderHe was short, muscular, and on a mission. He had long since cleared his mind of the emotions of his situation and was now checking his facts before making a huge decision. It's a scenario I see over and over in my job, but with endless variations on just how clearly options are identified and weighed at an extremely stressful time. This man, however, had months to work through his circumstances and was now at a critical turning point. He confirmed the facts and his options with me and seemed set on which way he'd decide, then he stopped.

"Can I bring my wife in?  This affects her too and I'd like to see what she thinks."

In a snap of a finger, what I had thought was cocky bravado became confidence instead. What I had observed up to that  point seemed to be the self-centeredness of being single. Perhaps he knew that in order to be of value to another, he had to be true to himself first. But what came to the forefront above all else was his sense of responsibility to another person.

This encounter happened at the same time that my mind was reeling from learning that  my son had decided to shirk a responsibility that has a profound affect on me. The crap rolls downhill, and I am now unable to keep up with my own responsibilities, something that I take very seriously.

Furious, betrayed, deceived, angered, fraught and feeling more alone than I have felt since he was born, my heart broke. It's unbearable to realize how I failed to raise a good person.  Just how much of an impact my failure has reaches way beyond me and touches everyone, everything that he touches. It's staggering.

So, I launch into self-assessment. From early on, I have despised selfishness and self-centeredness, aggrandizement and arrogance, self-righteousness and imposition. The more these negative traits are apparent, the less room there is for truth, honesty, integrity and responsibility. I keep a tight rein on myself and will kick my own ass hard if I find myself slacking off at all. I don't preach it, I live it. Am I perfect? No, not by a long shot.

It all hit home for me when my son was born. There was this tiny person that came from me and there was no question, no hesitation in that, unconditionally, I was responsible for him. From that day on, I took care of all I was responsible for without a second thought. I just did it. Do you have a baby and not feed it, bath it and change it's diapers? Do you not immediately check the baby at every little sound? Would you not kill any perceived threat to that baby?

When you're hired to do a job, you do it and are given a paycheck in return. If you don't do the job, the paychecks stop  You pay rent or a mortgage to live in a place you call home.  If you don't pay, you no longer live there. If you water a potted plant, it blooms and grows. If you don't, it wilts and dies. Life itself is responsibility.

And life, with all it's responsibility, is all tangled up together. When one particle moves, every other particle in existence shifts to accommodate that movement. If one responsibility is shirked, the reach of that one failure is endless.

One dog that wasn't fed kills a bird to eat. That bird would've ate a spider who's web would've caught a bee that was supposed to sting a man driving down a road that causes him to pull over instead of looking down at his cell phone and then swerve into the path of a car killing everyone inside. Need I go on?

No responsibility is insignificant. Nothing you do or don't do affects nothing else. Like the song said, "no man is an island." It took a short, considerate man to bring this lesson home to me once again. I may never know if or when my son learns this lesson. 

If there is one thing that I do know, it's that responsibility is just as important to life as breathing.

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