Do Your Part: Taking Responsibility in a New Era

Last week, on Tuesday November 4th, I woke up in a panic, thinking, "I haven't done enough!" I was filled with a moment of anxiety and dread, considering the possibility that I hadn't done enough to affect a real change in our country, I hadn't made enough calls or talked to enough people, and now it was too late.

Then I took a breath, got on my knees, and started to pray. I prayed hard. I asked God to help us, to guide us, regardless of the outcome of this historic election. I asked what I could do to make sure I didn't wake up feeling this way again, and I heard a gentle voice say, "Do your part."

So, taking a deep breath, I began to search my heart for what that would be... I knew I'd have to step up in a way I never have before, and I decided that what I needed to do was to write to everyone I know and encourage them to take a deep look inside, see how they can step up their own personal game, and to make a commitment they maybe have been unwilling to make before now. Now, a week later, having had time to think, process and complete this letter, I ask you now, "What is your part? And what are you going to do?"

If you ever doubted that you could effect change, now is the time to release that doubt and be willing to do your part, whatever that looks like. This is just the beginning....

For the first time in my adult life, I feel a growing sense of patriotism. According to the dictionary, patriotism is "a
pride in or devotion to the country somebody was born in or is a citizen of," and by that definition, I do feel patriotic. I feel proud of this country and devoted to it in a way I never have before. And this patriotism stems not from a feeling of panic, desperation or hopelessness, but rather from a feeling of hope.

For the first time in my life - the first time - I feel invited by the person in the highest office in our country to participate in the process of Democracy, and I am willing to do whatever I need to step up to that invitation.

Like millions of citizens of the United States, in the last few years I gave up hope for a better future. A part of me withered away to almost nothing as I watched in shock while we continued a devastating war for no good reason, as our economy took a perilous dive, as more and more people became disenfranchised, grew hopeless, and threw up their arms in despair about any possibility of a positive change ever occurring. For the first time since the cold war, I was afraid for my children's future - deeply afraid, and intensely angry.

However, I felt like I had no outlet for my fears and concerns, no way to feel heard by a "government that had no pride," (The Pretenders). I allowed myself to get lazy. I gave up hope. I didn't do the things I could have done to do my part and participate in this government as a voting member of our citizenry.

I've heard some people say that it's up to the government to take care of us - we pay taxes for that. We should be able to trust the people we elect to do their jobs so we don't have to be a watchdog over them. After having given it some thought, what I have to say to those folks is, "Has that worked in the past? Has it worked for us to not take responsibility for the things we want to see done? Has it worked to trust our politicians to take care of things for us?"

We have an opportunity now - a great opportunity - to participate in this process called Democracy. If we care about an issue, we need to make sure that we take personal responsibility for making it happen, or at least do everything we can so we know we gave it our best.

So, if you're concerned about the growing number of African and Latin American men who are incarcerated in our already overcrowded prisons, if you're passionate about making sure that every child in this country has the same access to a good education regardless of where they live, if you're dedicated to providing a decent home and health care for every citizen of this country, if you are worried about our global climate crisis, then step up. Do your part! There is no excuse - if you think you have elected someone to do a job for you, think again.

We face unprecedented challenges, not only here but around the globe, and it would be foolish of us to think that, simply because we have elected someone who stands for change and creative solutions, we can sit back and relax. On the contrary, having elected a new leader who has clearly spoken out and asked the people of this country to participate. It is time for us to step up more than we ever have before. This choice that the people of our country have made is a clarion call for change, for a radical paradigm shift and most especially for responsibility.

This is about moving from a patriarchal paradigm where the father figure says, "Trust me. I'll take care of you. Turn your power over to me and I'll handle everything." When we do this, we become numb, like the frogs in the pot of very slowly boiling water, staying in as it gets hotter and hotter, until they boil to death. We have been frogs long enough!

We put ourselves in the position of being victims and then we end up complaining to everyone around us, whining about why things aren't going the way we think they should be going. I say, "It's time to get over it and step up!" This is about making a shift from the paradigm of giving away our power to a paradigm of co-creation, of taking shared responsibility for what happens in our nation. We do not have to turn our power over to someone just because we elected them, regardless of which party - be it Republican, Democratic, Green, Independent, Libertarian or anything else.

One of the foundational elements of creating what you want is taking responsibility. Taking responsibility means that you are willing to give up your excuses for not doing, being or having all you want in your life. Taking responsibility can look like making time for your family, paying your bills on time, or making an apology you know you need to make. Taking responsibility can look like donating money to a cause you believe in, volunteering your time and effort to someone or something you support, or staying involved in our democratic process.

Our planet is in crisis, our economy is in crisis, our health, our children and the majority of our citizens are in crisis, and we can no longer afford to sit back and wait for someone else to take the lead. It is up to us! I believe it is time that we all stop blaming "them" (regardless of who "they" are) for the conditions of our lives, our pocketbooks, and most importantly our climate. It is time to stop playing the victim, do whatever we need to do to get over ourselves and take action.

If you are unwilling to take responsibility, then don't complain to me. As of today, I refuse to allow myself to complain because I have things to do, people to encourage and a planet to honor and protect. I have no time for anything that holds me back from living the purpose G-d put me here to fulfill. I commit to living my vision and I urge you to do the same.

So, what is your vision? What is your passion? What are you willing to do? How uncomfortable are you willing to get in order to make this world a better place for our children, their children and generations to come? We must do something! Regardless of your political beliefs, religious affiliations or cultural mores, you have a responsibility to do your part. If not, you can sit by quietly while the world changes around you.

We have an opportunity to recreate a true democracy. I believe the founding fathers and mothers of this country fought for that - for everyone to have a voice, a say, in what happens on every level. This creates true accountability in our government. That is what President Elect Obama is saying, "Work with me. Let's do this together."

I believe that, regardless of your opinions about his capability to lead our country for the next four years, each citizen of this country has a responsibility to step up and support him in eliciting real, lasting and positive change. There is too much at stake not to do everything we can to be the change we want to see in the world. YES WE CAN!

Endnote: Thank you, Barack Obama, Debbie Ford, Rich and Yvonne Dutra-St. John and all other courageous leaders who are willing to risk judgment for speaking their truth. You are my inspiration.

Copyright November, 2008