You can do it!

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, April 27, 2016

I’ve been thinking a lot about responsibility lately, ranging from how we teach children what is their responsibility and what is our responsibility as adults and as members of this society.
The trend, as I see it, is for us to do nothing with the assumption that it is someone else’s responsibility to do it. I find that premise rampant in our society. We assume the that it is the responsibility of our schools to teach our children how to read, how to behave, how to budget their time, and be good citizens; most have parents who are “too busy making a living” to teach their children the basics of life.
But how about us adults? Most of us are very good at saying what other people should do with their time and assets yet we do not hold ourselves to the same standards. We also blame the government for not taking care of the homeless, or our roads, or our public parks, or our schools. But we don’t want to assume those responsibilities ourselves, and we certainly don’t want to pay higher taxes to enable the government to do so. 
Back in the 1950s, in the days that I remember going to public parks with well maintained trails, attending a school with well-paid happy teachers (and delicious home cooked cafeteria lunches, I might add) the highest income tax rate was 52 percent. God knows we won’t go back to that, but how in the world do we expect to get those same benefits without paying for them somehow?
I’ve been babysitting for our 17-month-old granddaughter one day a week, which means that I’ve been trying to learn how to nurture and help a growing child in a world quite different than the world our children grew up in 40 years ago.
Today’s is a world of fear, or safety restrictions that make ordinary activities like swinging on the swing, or walking to school, a liability. How do I teach her responsibility for her own safety when regulations have already done that for her? Extrapolate that out to the bigger question: how do we take care of ourselves, our security, our peace of mind, our quality of life, when we have already given so much of that responsibility over to someone else – our insurance companies, our government, etc. As for our environment, we’ve learned to expect someone else to take care of it.
So, let’s go back to the 17-month-old child. One of the parenting books had in it the quote, “Don’t do anything for a child that she can do for herself.” That means that she must learn to go down the steps by herself is she wants to go downstairs. My job as a grandparent is to catch her (if, and only if) she starts to fall.
When she is trying to open a jar, I let her struggle. Does she always like it? No. Does she yell and scream at me for not doing what she wants? Yes. Does she gleam with achievement and pride when she succeeds? Yes. I believe that this is what creates empowerment.
What does this have to do with conservation? It has everything to do with it. We live in a community where there is land that can be used for parks, and trails, and we have landowners who are not afraid of their neighbors, who will allow children to walk through their yards to get to school.
Why would we expect the government or some outside entity to take care of our own back yard? Why would we expect someone else to keep us healthy, or improve our environment? That’s our job, and we can do it. We are part of a vibrant community, living in one of the most beautiful places on earth.
Just like little Lucy being afraid when navigating those stairs, it can be scary to put all your energy into something you’ve never done before, but the rewards are priceless. 

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