Posts Tagged 'Morality'

Taking Responsibility

Snow on the branches.

This entry begins in my car this morning.  You see, last night, I lent my car to my mother.  While in my car (besides using up my gas), she decides that she dislikes my music and wants to switch from CD to radio.  Instead of pressing the switch button, she instructs my brother to remove the CD.  Where he removed it to, evidently, was a pile of goo (God knows what it was; I certainly don’t).  I find my radio cover (on the floor of the driver’s seat) and my CD (thrown haphazardly in a nook by the dashboard.  CD is covered in gunk and is well scratched.  Mother blames brother.  Brother blames me and my mother.  All I know is that I donated something because I’m nice to have it disrespected and some of my property ruined.  I don’t care who did it (though I am of the opinion they are both at fault) but I do need someone to take responsibility and make up for the error.

And I think that’s a huge thing in the world right now.  I know that I am more inclined to point at someone else when I have done something wrong and let them take the fall for it.  It’s one of those things that I am trying to work on myself.  Taking responsibility is hard, but it’s one of those things that if we do, and we learn from our mistakes, we become better people for it.

One of my favourite cries is “oh, but he said….” and to try to pin the blame on someone else, thus twisting the situation.  Guess what, world (and myself as well)- that doesn’t change the facts.  Yes, he may have said that but you had no right to have said this.  Be the bigger person, foresee the possible issue, do everything you can in order to be sure that it’s out of your hands… if you had, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

My second favourite?  “It was an accident.”  Bollocks.  So you took Gramma’s expensive vase and put it on the counter where the cat knocked it over.  You may have not knocked it yourself, it was an accident, the cat did it, but guess what, peanut?  You were directly involved.  Take responsibility for your involvement.

I have a story about a time it was an accident, and someone took responsibility, and everyone was the better for it.  I lent Rent to a friend once, who lent it to someone else (whose name she didn’t know).  We tried and tried but we could not find the person she lent the movie to (this, by the way, is why I’m so anal about getting my movies back).  I was miffed, but I let it go.  What could I do, anyway?  A couple months later, the middle party – who had lost it accidentally and meant no harm – bought me a new copy because she said she felt responsible.  I was happy because I got my property back, and she felt better without carrying that burden on her shoulders.  She didn’t have to buy me a new copy.  I never asked for it.  But she did because she rightly understood that I had entrusted her with the film and she was responsible for its loss.

Granted, I suppose not everyone in the world has that guilt complex.  I know I do… but I’m also aware that my brother (jerk) doesn’t.  I spoke to him about the CD, and his response was “well, Mom didn’t like your crappy music and it’s not my fault that it got ruined.  I just took it out of the player and put it somewhere.  Get over it.”  Then he went back to munching his Pringles and turned up the tele a wee bit more.  I know this situation shouldn’t frustrate me so much… but it’s the principle of the thing.  It wasn’t a CD I purchased, but knowing that people care more about their own well being than for the sanctity of others’ property… well… the only person in my family I’m going to be lending my things to now is my father.

For those of you out there more interested in “not getting in trouble” than doing the right thing… … at the risk of sounding like a conservative mother… shame on you.

R.A.O.K.s

A collectible figurine in the curio.

May 18, 2010; Chesterfield, NH: One of my mother's collectible Boyd figurines.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” ~ Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr.

R.O.A.Ks.  Not to be confused with R.O.U.S’, which are the infamous Rodents of Unusual Size from the movie A Princess Bride.  What is an R.O.A.K.?  Does it sound a little familiar?  Maybe it would help if I spelled it out for you:  Random Acts of Kindness.  Now what we know what it stands for, you may wonder, why is she talking about that?  It’s not Kindness Day; the next one of those isn’t until November.  Why bring up the topic at all?

The topic is being brought up because the topic has to be brought up.  It occurs to me that we don’t do Random Acts of Kindness nearly as often as we should.  I did a WordPress Search for “random acts of kindness” and my top results were about World Kindness Week, commercialism of R.A.O.Ks, and about Random Acts of Kindness Day.  I didn’t find anything about acts being performed, but preachings that they should be.  So, I figured that maybe my sample size was too small.  I went to Google.

When you Google search “random acts of kindness,” the first thing that comes up is The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation.  My first reaction?  Frustration.  Does everything needs to be commercialised?  Do we really need days, products, a foundation to inspire us to do R.A.O.K.s?  Then I found the testimonial stories.  I haven’t decided what to think of them yet.  Every once and a while, there’s a golden one, talking about an R.O.A.K. done for the teller.  Many of them are self-centered and self-promoting, which to me defies the point.  If you’re doing a random act of kindness to make yourself look good, then it’s not selfless.  Stories that claim “I didn’t punish my sibling for finding the toy they lost and I was looking for” don’t seem like a R.O.A.K. to me.  And stories that sound like a chain email could easily be fiction.

There aren’t a lot of stories on the website, and only half of them sound like legitimate R.O.A.K.s.  And all the legitimate ones are based around money (lost wallets, etc.).  That concerns me.  Do we even know what kindness is anymore?  I decided to look up the “official definition” of “kindness” in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online, and the definition I received was “the quality or state of being kind.”  Geez, well, that’s not very helpful?  I looked up the word “kind”, and I got “of a sympathetic or helpful nature.”  So, if we plug that into the previous definition, we get “the quality of being of a sympathetic or helpful nature.”  Well goodness, no wonder so many of those stories are based around self-promotion?  According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, all you need to be is unplannedly helpful and voila!  Random act of kindness.  That seems a little uneventful to me.

I am firmly convinced that the word “selfless” really needs to be included in that definition.  Bringing lilacs to a friend because they make you smile and so do lilacs… that’s unplanned and selfless.  Returning a wallet and taking the reward?  Not so selfless.  Returning a wallet is more helpful, yes… but it brings relief not joy.  Random acts of kindness should bring joy to both parties.  Not just a “thank God, my credit cards are still intact… I think.”  It should be the type of thing that makes you want to tell other people.  Tell other people “this complete stranger did this awesome thing,” not “hey, guess what, I got my purse back.”  I’d like to share some random acts of kindness that have been showed to me recently, just in way of saying that I appreciate them.  They have not gone unnoticed.

  • Last week, one of the ladies I work with gave me wrapping paper.  No reason at all- it had my name on it and she saw it and wanted to give me it.  I don’t know why.  I mean, we’re not really friends, but she did anyway.  That was really nice of her.
  • Bryan gave me a bouquet of Scarlet Mimis a few weeks ago, the Friday before he moved out of his dorm room.  They were beautiful and I dried some of them out to keep forever.  We hadn’t been fighting, and it wasn’t a special day, he just woke up that morning and wanted to do that.
  • Every once and a while, one of the girls I used to work with in ActingOut comes up to me, gives me a hug, and tells me I made a difference in her life.  Wow.  Way to make me feel like I’m doing something right in the world, and in that program.  I think hearing that and knowing its true it amazing, and always uplifting.  And I don’t think she realises how much hearing that means to me.
  • A few weeks ago, one of my friends gave me a stone (two, actually!) painted in nailpolish with my name on them.  No reason at all; she just did.  I named the smaller one Steve and it was exciting.
  • My mom bought baby carrots and pineapple at the grocery store last week, just for me.  It made my weekend for her to think of me like that!
  • My manager helped me doing some busy work last night in my closing shift, because he didn’t have anything else to do.  It saved me loads of time!  I think I said thank you a dozen times, but it wasn’t enough.
  • I had a customer compliment me to a fellow associate, who passed it on to a couple managers.  This is two random acts of kindness:  one from the customer, and one from my fellow associate.  It was nice of him to say it, and it was nice of the associate to pass it on, though he didn’t have to.  Thanks, guys!
  • One of my best friends stopped into work yesterday to see me, and even though I was crazy busy and didn’t even get to say “hello,” it was nice to see her, and to have her take time out of her day to say hello.
  • One of the gentlemen I work with in theatre dropped off some music cds for me to listen to for an upcoming show in his free time yesterday.  It’ll help me get ahead for the show, which is a relief for me, and it was nice of him to come out of his way to bring them to me!
  • One of my directors is pushing her husband to give me a lead role which (she doesn’t know because I’ve never told her) I really want.  She has so much faith in me, and that’s great to know, and great to have.  She’s always trying to help me improve and she’s always teaching me new things, for no reason at all but the goodness of her heart.

That’s just the beginning.  I certainly could keep going.  Those just touched the last three weeks, at the most.  People do kind things for me every day without even realising it.  We shouldn’t need an event or reason to do good things, selfless things for other people.  We should want to do them, just because they’re right.

Not to be cheesy, but have you performed a R.O.A.K. today?  Has someone done one for you?  Tell me about it!

Health ReportHealth Report: Just ate a Peanutbutter Whoopie Pie.  Those things are calorie-crazy.  Needless to say, some exercise will be required.  I’m thinking Wii Swordplay or Basketball for an hour or so, topped with improv?  Lets hope that’s enough.

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Words Worth Getting AtWords Worth Getting At:  I maintain that the typewriter is great for writing something even when I don’t want to.  In fact, it’s on my to-do list today.  After Wii Swordplay/Basketball.  I already typed up a dead-end short this morning, but it’s good to keep writing.

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Random SqueeRandom Squee: I found out yesterday that a young gentleman has made a motion to open an ice cream parlor in my hometown, fairly close to my house.  That would be marvelous.

“L” is For the Way You Look at Me.

A view out my windshield on Route Nine.

May 16, 2010; Chesterfield, NH: From my windshield, on Route Nine. Note to self? No more driving and taking pictures simultaneously.

“Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, / I’ve gotta love one man ’til I die, / can’t help lovin’ that man of mine.” ~ Lovin’ That Man of Mine from the musical Showboat.

Love is a word thrown around far too much in the world.  “O.  M.  G.  I totally love your shoes!”  or  says the middle school girl to her crush, “But I love you!”  We as a society seem to have forgotten the true meaning of love.  Like an appendix, the word is there, but it’s useless because it isn’t used in the way it was intended.

I am a guilty party.  When I say “I love you” to my friends, I feel like that is an adequate use of the word.  If I say it to them (and mean it) that means that I love them like siblings.  But when I say it to a significant other, it’s not adequate at all.  It feels ten or fifteen pieces short of a jigsaw puzzle.  So I’m not just talking a little inadequate.  I’m talking the whole ballgame.

When did the abuse of the word start?  I think I want to blame the poets.  It is a poet’s job to use the strongest words in his verse in order to invoke image and emotion into the heart and soul of the reader.  But like in any other part of writing, words and phrases can become cliches because they’re used so often.  And such is the case with the word “love”.  It was overused in work because people (like poets) wanted readers to feel the indescribable feeling that comes with being  in love.  I daresay the word was never adequate to encompass the physical and emotional reactions to love.  But when you read it, see it, use it too much, it begins to lose all meaning.  It is a casual word, instead of one filled with power.  And yet, people still use it in writing (especially poetry!) constantly.  Why?  There’s nothing to replace it.

I’m not trying to pick on poets and say they’re a bad bunch.  Really.  I have friends who are poets, and I write a poem myself every once in a blue moon.  But I feel like I speak the truth:  there’s nobody like a writer to ruin the value of a word, and poets in particular excel at ruining abstractions.  And you must keep in mind that when I say “poets” I am including lyricists.  After all, what is a song, when the music is taken away, but a poem?

Sixty years ago, “love” meant more.  I think it had to do with the moral standards of the time, as well as the fact that materialism was just beginning to take a foothold in America.  In the 1950s, corporate retail was just beginning.  There were more Mom-and-Pop-Shops, and as far as I can remember (which isn’t fair, since I was born in 1989, but humour me) there were no Wal-Marts.  In fact, most retail stores that we shop at today didn’t exist.  But I digress.  Nobody said “I love your new dishwasher.”  If you said “love” to someone, it was either to your family member, or, if you were really brave, your high school sweetheart.  When you hear people in old movies (Humphrey Boggart, Ava Gardner) say “I love you,” believe me, in the context of the movie, it wasn’t fleeting love.  It was the forever kind.  They were sure about it.  If Joe Schmo leaves Jane Doe in the middle of the movie, you can bet on two things:  1.) Neither of them hook up with anyone else (that sort of movie started in the eighties); and 2.) They’ll be back together by the end of the movie, unless one of them dies, and neither will die without managing to leave a message of undying love.

People used to say “I love you” when it was true, not when they thought it was (or should be) socially acceptable.  Divorce rates used to be lower, there were fewer abortions, and while I’m not saying everyone forever should abstain from sex until after marriage (because they’re no point in saying that, it would never happen) nobody did it to win a bet, or to get a high.  They did it for love.  If someone got pregnant, they got married.  Now, we don’t know what love is, so those things like sex, having children, getting married?  They’re all based on reason and social acceptance.

To quote Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, “Ain’t there anyone here for love?”

My answer?  There may be.  But really, how many people know what love is?  Beyond the cultural definition, beyond poetic verse.  Beyond childhood rhymes?  And, more importantly, how many people care?

I wish I could give answers, but I know that I can’t.  I hate leaving things open-ended, but these are the only facts I have.  I can’t reach into someone’s mind or soul to find deeper meaning and understanding within it.  I can only hope that there are a significant amount of people out there who, like me, would like to stop singing of love and throwing the word around like a Frisbee and returning to a moral state where love is true and people know how to handle the word properly.  Fewer broken hearts, broken homes.

Maybe the human race has just become so cold-blooded that most people not only don’t know how to love, but don’t want to?  That would be a sad day indeed.


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something to think about

"You know, I don't know if you'll understand this or not, but sometimes, even when I'm feeling very low, I'll see some little thing that will somehow renew my faith. Something like that leaf, for instance - clinging to its tree despite wind and storm. You know, that makes me think that courage and tenacity are about the greatest values a man can have. Suddenly my old confidence is back and I know things aren't half as bad as I make them out to be. Suddenly I know that with the strength of his convictions a man can move mountains, and I can proceed with full confidence in the basic goodness of my fellow man. I know that now. I know it." ~ End of Act I in the musical You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.

competing for the house cup

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