"No man is an island, entire of itself; every
man is a piece of the continent, a part of the
main. If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory
were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or
of thine own were: any man's death diminishes
me, because I am involved in mankind, and
therefore never send to know for whom the bells
tolls; it tolls for thee."
Emergent Occasions, no. 17
I was a courtroom lawyer for forty three years. I told my juries that what they did that day in their verdict would create many effects unknown to them. It was like dropping a pebble in a pool, and the ripples spread out to touch every inch of the pool’s edges. You never know what effect your act or omission today has on someone far away, even unknown. My words spoken long ago have come back to me in the mouths of strangers, most of whom have reported having been happily changed, bemused or even enlightened. I never heard of those bad things I may have done or said, and what changes they evoked. I am sure they are there, in abundance.
Responsibility in its broadest definition doesn’t mean blame; it contains an essence that elevates one who is responsible to a state far above that of the human, but including human. It means one who is willing and able to be at cause over every phase of his life, the lives of others, and all things sentient and non sentient in the universe. A fully responsible man would literally be a God.
Life is tough. Man is ill equipped physically and mentally to handle things that come his way on a regular basis. Growing up in a world that believes in force as its means of survival seems to require that one use force, when understanding would resolve any conflict. Man wants to be happy, and feels he must fight to survive, and meaning well sometimes steps on others toes in the process, bumps them in the crowd, says and does stupid hurtful things to his friends, spouse, children. These insults affect the lives of those who received them, and they repeat them, like echoes.
I was a Boy Scout and active in the Scouts with my sons. Their Pledge is one of taking responsibility for self and others. It means more than just being helpful. It means giving service and exchange in abundance, giving more value than one receives. This oath and the definition of responsibility represents the spiritual ideal of mankind: Love of one another.
It is so easy to communicate through a smile, a nod, a friendly acknowledgement. Most people have never been acknowledged for who they are or what they do. It is so easy to say, “Hey, you are looking terrific today.” Find something you truly admire about that kid, man, lady, nearby while you stand in line at the market or bank and sincerely tell him or her about it. There is always something. Emerson said, “Every man is in some way superior to me, and in that I can learn from him.” One thing you can get from that guy in line is a smile, for he is burdened, you can count on it. You can move him out of it for just a moment, and that may be enough to get him through the day. You get it back double over.
I noticed that when most clients brought their kids in, they didn’t introduce them. Kids are adults that have not achieved full growth, and probably have never been acknowledged as a person. I would squat by the kid, offer my hand (not some shallow high five) but a real handshake as I looked him right in the eye, being really sincere, and said, “I’m L.D., what’s your name?” He would tell me. I would say that I was glad to meet him, and really meant it. You could tell he knew it, for he would brighten up. In a short time he would be hanging on my leg or wanting to sit in my lap or tell me something important about his day. I would let him and listen. Usually the parents were amazed that their kid had opened up like that to a stranger—and to a lawyer at that! That kid would go away realizing he was worthy.
I am responsible for you, though I don’t know you. You are part of the fabric of my universe, and when I see you we will know one another, for we are somehow kindred spirits. And if you just cut a few of the little threads holding yourself, you will know and show that you love me and I love you. That is the way things should be. That is responsibility.
“Don’t send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”