Responsibility

A definition for the word “responsibility” is having the ability to respond.

Is that really all it takes?  I submit that responsibility also requires the fine art of discernment, i.e., knowing when to respond (because everything is not my responsibility!).

For example, recently when the guy sitting in the front row of the airplane rudely snapped at the flight attendant as she distributed the little bags of peanuts, “Hello!  Peanut allergy!”, I really wanted to respond to him.  And not in a good way.

Thankfully, I also didn’t respond with the first thought that came to mind when, upon walking into the little country store for a bottle of water, I was greeted by two grizzled old gents puffing on cigarettes, a stuffed jackalope and a blow-up candy cane.   I could almost hear banjos playing Christmas carols.

I believe my ego has an over-developed sense of responsibility.  I think I can do something about virtually anything.  But I couldn’t (or didn’t) respond to the senior standing along side a busy entrance ramp in downtown Detroit.  She looked so obviously green and uncomfortable, almost as if she were on her lunch break and couldn’t decide where to hang for a few hours.

Same with the older man dressed in slacks, tie and cardigan sweater holding a “wants to work” sign near a busy Dallas intersection. 

Don’t you think it is easy to respond from a place of irritation or incredulity?  But neither of the first two examples were my business. 

It’s much harder to respond to individual hurting faces and damaged spirits.  Are either of the last two examples my business?  When do I have a responsibility to respond?  How do I know when the response comes from my heart or my ego?

What would you do?  I’m really interested in your thoughts.

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