by Dave Markwell

Yeah, I know…the “R & R” thing likely conjured up some warm visions of sun and sand and perhaps an umbrella drink in your hand. Sorry to disappoint. “R & R” for my purposes here refers to “rights and responsibilities.” While, at first glance, it may not seem as attractive as a fruit-flavored rum cocktail, a certain depth and the feelings of purpose and contribution are not incompatible with a butt on a stool in a Tiki bar on some hidden Caribbean isle. They both feel good.

While sleep-walking through Facebook the other day, a friend’s post caught my eye: “Society has gotten to a point where everybody has a right, but nobody has a responsibility.” Normally, these types of posts flash across my mind and slip off of it without stopping. This one stopped.

I need look no further than my own household to see that these words are true. My kids regularly claim their God/birth given rights to have me cook, clean, drive, pay and accommodate their every want and whim: their rights, MY responsibility. I happily and/or unhappily try to fulfill my duty, where things get squirrely is when I ask them to take on some responsibility. They seem to think that another one of their rights is to have NO responsibilities, except for the ones they want. As defeated and deflated as this makes me feel, when I look around the world, I see that I am not alone. Many people want the rights without the responsibilities. We seem to forget that by neglecting our responsibilities, our rights are compromised.

Our right to live in a clean community relies on our responsibility to pick up the piece of trash on the sidewalk. Our right to participate in the political process is predicated by our responsibility to be informed and vote. Our right to have a good neighbor relies on BEING a good neighbor. Our rights are earned by our contributions.

As citizens and stewards of this world, we have a duty to simply “do what we can”. This duty is as basic as breathing, but is not, unfortunately, connected to any autonomic system to activate its function. We must be AWARE of the needs in our communities and ACT. Consciously and deliberately.

Through action and especially COLLECTIVE action, all great things are possible. We are in this thing together. We share the world we live in and we all have a responsibility, in whatever ways we can, to help it flourish. We win by giving. We win by actively participating in creating the world we want to live in. We win a better world and a better life.

While pondering my own contributions, I understand that I can give much more. I try to be a diligent study in my world. I participate and give and serve, but I can do more. And I will begin by making my kids fold their own damn laundry. I will educate them on the relationship between rights and responsibility. They are not entitled to anything. Life involves exchange. And it ain’t always pretty. But, it’s the world we live in. It’s ours and we are bound by the sanctity of our citizenship to honor and act. It’s not always convenient, but it’s always important. And, it’s just the right thing to do…

[EDITOR’S NOTE:”Feel Good Friday” is a regular column written by Des Moines resident Dave Markwell, who just published his first book called “A Feel Good Life” (buy it on Amazon here). Dave also extols to all neighbors: “Enjoy where we live. Put your feet on the pavement and truly feel how great it is to live here!” Also, you can “friend” Dave on Facebook here. Or work out with him at his exercise company Waterland CrossFit!]

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