Thursday, October 22, 2020
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Brett Fish

Money: How do we ‘As you love yourself?’

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Money can tend to be quite a personal thing.

Let me ask you this – if you found yourself in a room filled with strangers of various diversity in terms of age, race and present social standing and someone announced that you had to write down your present budget (income and expenses per month) and share it with the person on either side of you, how would that make you feel?

None of their business, right? My money is my thing and no-one needs to know about that.

Whose cash is it anyway?

If you’re still not fully convinced then jump onto social media and make a comment that you think international football players get paid too much. You will receive a quick lesson on what people who are big fans of the sport think about that one. (Spoiler alert: it will not go well!)

Where do we look to for advice about money? I guess most of us would probably go to friends and family and maybe if we are making enough money we might have a financial advisor, someone we pay money to help us answer that.

For me as a follower of Jesus, I go to God. What is interesting to me though, is that although the Bible speaks about money a lot, we don’t often hear churches talking about it. In fact, I would say that most churches probably speak about money about once a year, when they encourage you to give your money (or a tenth of it) to the church.

What does God say about money?

For me, I think that one of the biggest things God says about money in the Bible is something that doesn’t even seem to be about money. When a group of religious leaders try to trap Jesus by asking Him to highlight one commandment as the most important one, Jesus responds by saying this:

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and the greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as you love yourself. All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.’

So this is meant to be the greatest commandment for Christians. Love God with everything but also love your neighbour as yourself. It’s the ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ bit that has gotten me thinking recently.

Jesus goes on in other stories to talk about how your ‘neighbour’ includes your enemy, everyone you know and even people you don’t know. So He really is calling us to treat everyone around us in the same way we want to be treated ourselves.

Which brings me to money? Does the way I spend my money (and I will add my possessions and skills and time to this question) impact others around me so that they feel loved the same way that I love myself?

Relationship is the key to good money habits

Giving  to strangers can feel hard sometimes, while giving to people you love is often the easiest thing. So perhaps the key to giving is not so much focusing on the money, but on the relationship. A local and international non-profit like Common Change is just one group that can help us do better with that.

As we grow relationship our with people, so the desire to love others as we love ourselves will become a natural part of who we are. And if God’s take on the things we possess is that they should be used to build up community and not to possess us, then perhaps this is a God worth looking into.

Many people move away from church because they think that sometimes the church is all about taking their money. But how would you feel about a church whose responsibility it is to connect people who have resources with those who do not. Is that a God you would like to hear more about?

If this post has spoken to you or if you would like to know more, please click on the link below or leave a comment.

Fasting for real change

I hate fasting.

Let me get that out of the way right from the start. I have done it on a number of different occasions for a whole bunch of different reasons and I just really don’t enjoy it a whole lot.

But I am glad for the times I have done it.

I remember fasting once a week on Tuesdays when I was at teacher’s training college. Inevitably every second week I would remember half way through the day after just having eaten something that I was supposed to be fasting. Argh! Guilt trip. I will try again next week.

When I was part of a missions team doing some training in Holland a group of us fasted lunch for a week but in those times met together to pray specifically for certain things that were on our heart and that was a lot more successful – and easy to remember. Fasting with someone else is  a great idea.

Then there was the longest fast I ever did which was ten days long – only liquids and no food at all. Followed by me trying to cycle the 109km Cape Argus Cycle tour. Bad move. I realised this about 20km in and then phoned my mom to pick me up. Hint for first-time fasters: Don’t do a big one before a sporting event. I had actually joined a friend of mine who was doing the ten-day fast and so it was an accident that it ended up finishing just before my cycle, but lesson learnt.

A different kind of fast

But fasting is a good thing. There is discipline involved. And sacrifice. Particularly when you are replacing the eating of food with some form of meditation, reflection or prayer for others. This when I have felt fasting to be the most effective.

It can really help focus you and also pull you outside of yourself and get you thinking about, and acting for, others.

But then there is this almost ‘left field’ passage that is found in the words of the prophet Isaiah in the Bible, who calls for a new definition of fasting:

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood – Isaiah 58.6-7

That is revolutionary in one sense, but it also seems to show God’s heart when it comes to religious matters.

If you read the whole passage you get a more clear view of God saying something along the lines of: Don’t try to impress me with religious acts that don’t translate into changed behaviour.

As much as I love the idea of fasting and the change of focus and the discipline and sacrifice and all that, I have to say this idea moves me even more.

God calls us to live the kind of religious lives that result in injustice being tackled, cords being cut, oppressed people being set free. And while the church has definitely had a hand in these things in the past (slavery, apartheid, emancipation of women) we often find that the church would rather choose a religious act like fasting (or prayer or worship) than a transforming act like the kind of things God calls for here.

Imagine a church that took Isaiah 58 more seriously on a day-to-day basis. Is that something you would choose to be a part of? There are definitely parts of the church today who are doing amazing things in those areas but you have to look around a bit to find them. However, that is definitely the church that I want to align myself with as someone who is trying his best to follow Jesus in the world today.

That is the kind of fasting I want to gravitate towards. How about you?

The man in the tree

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You may know the story in the bible about a really short man named Zacchaeus who found himself up a tree. But this week I was given a different perspective on that story which I found really interesting.

The story can be found in Luke 19 and the gist of it is that this hated tax-collector, Zacchaeus, had heard about Jesus and wanted to see him. But he was very short and so when he heard Jesus was heading his way he climbed into a tree so he could watch as Jesus passed by.

But when Jesus got to the tree Zacchaeus was in, he called out to him and basically invited himself to Zacchaeus’ house for dinner. After they had eaten together Zacchaeus has a huge change of heart and makes this declaration: 

 “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

A different view

I attended a lecture by Doctor Allan Boesak this week titled, “Will Zacchaeus remain sitting in the tree? Reconciliation as a form of Justice, or as a form of Capture.”

He tackled some of the traditional aspects of the story relating it to South Africa and the haves and the have-nots as a call for the rich to be mindful of the wealth they have and how there might be a more just way of distributing or sharing the wealth.

But one of the things he said which I had never thought about was that the moment Jesus calls Zacchaeus out of the tree, not only is he facing Jesus, but he is also likely standing among many of the people he has cheated and stolen from. As a tax collector, Zacchaeus would not have been liked already [typically tax collectors were

As a tax collector, Zacchaeus would not have been liked already [typically tax collectors were jews who were working for the Romans collecting taxes and often being corrupt and taking some of themselves as well], but from the story it seems like Zacchaeus, in particular, was a pretty nasty piece of work. He clearly had some reconciling to do.

What Doctor Boesak suggested was that if Zacchaeus had been allowed to remain in the tree, the chances of him repenting and restoring the stolen wealth would have been a lot less likely.

And that’s how it can be for us. Sometimes we need to come face to face with the people we have wronged and hurt to realise the need to ask for forgiveness and to do what we can to make things right. One wonders how much of the story was the conversation Zacchaeus has with Jesus [which we don’t get to see] and how much of it was standing with the crowd looking into the faces of people who feared and hated him.

Who is your crowd?

The amazing part of this story is that Zacchaeus does come down from the tree, he does see the faces of the people he has wronged, he does have an encounter with Jesus and he is changed forever.

Coming face to face with Jesus seemed to change so many people in the Bible one way or the other. Not only for Zacchaeus, but also for everyone he had wronged from his position of power, this encounter transformed their lives forever.

Is that something you would like to know more about? Click on the banner below and take a look.

 

The perfect amount of times to forgive

What are your thoughts on forgiveness?

A lot of people walk through life holding on to unforgiveness.

That person who did that thing to them who they have never quite been able to get over or leave behind. They may say that they are over it and that it doesn’t affect them anymore but every time that person’s name comes up you can visible see them tense up.

What is the worst thing anyone ever did to you? Have you moved past it? 

The Magic Number: Seventy Times Seven

There is a story in the Bible where one of Jesus’ disciples, Peter, comes up to Him and asks Jesus how many times he should forgive someone who has caused him offence. Before Jesus can even answer, Peter throws in a guess as he asks, “Seven times?” (You can find this story in Matthew chapter 18, verse 21 to 35)

It looks like Peter is trying to be super generous because seven is a lot of times to forgive someone. Peter has watched Jesus reach out to the marginalised of society – to women and children, to those suffering from leprosy and those who were from the hated group known as the Samaritans. Jesus has always showed the desire to draw people in and include them and share the love and the food and the miracles with everyone and not just those at the top of the social pile. So perhaps Peter, having taken that all in, is trying to pre-empt the answer Jesus will give.

But Jesus still manages to surprise Peter as He responds with, “Not seven times but seventy times seven times”. Some translations put Jesus response at seventy-seven times, but whichever one it was, it was certainly a whole lot bigger than what Peter was suggesting.

Forgiveness is not a number

In fact the lesson Jesus is giving to Peter, and us, here is that there is no limit to the number of times we should forgive. I love how my friend Ben the Priest put it this past Sunday:

‘Forgive your brothers and sisters beyond your ability to keep track.

Wow! That is a bit of a game changer, right?  Imagine if seven was the right number of times to forgive someone. We would always have to be remembering the numbers – “Okay, I’ve forgiven her five times which means she gets two more strikes…” But Jesus is turning this whole forgiveness thing on its head.

As much as forgiveness has great power, so unforgiveness also holds some power of its own. It has been said that ‘Holding on to unforgiveness is like drinking a cup of poison and hoping the other person will die.’ When we refuse to forgive others it creates a growing knot of bitterness and anger inside of us that refuses to let go. The longer we hold on and the more we refuse to extend forgiveness to the other, the more damage it does to us, affecting every other relationship we have as well.

So when Jesus extends the forgiveness count to a ridiculous amount, not only is He thinking of the person who needs to be forgiven. He is also thinking of the emotional and spiritual and even physical well-being of the person doing the forgiving. Forgive so that it might go well with you as well.

Is there someone in your life you can think of who you need to forgive? It might be helpful to be reminded that forgiving someone else is not about suggesting for a second that what they did was not wrong or didn’t matter. It is, in fact, acknowledging that they have done wrong, but that you refuse to let it cause you any more damage.

Lastly, as we come to know God and realise the extent of His forgiveness towards us – mainly through sending His Son Jesus to demonstrate that very love – we realise that we have been forgiven so much more than we will ever need to forgive. And that makes forgiving someone else, no matter what they have done, so much easier.

When darkness falls

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Are you dealing with a hard time right now that could be described as darkness?

When it comes to something bad happening in life, the question is not so much an “If” as a “When”. Bad stuff happens to all of us. We all deal with it in different ways.

It is coming up to two years since my best friend Rob was painfully taken from us by cancer, a word I am hating more and more as I hear new stories of people I know being affected by it.

That was really not an easy time for a lot of us and even two years later there are days when I really miss my friend and feel like he would know just how to help me face some of the tough life decisions I am facing.

Presence makes a difference

I know it’s different for different people, but for me when life is hard I like to be surrounded by people I love and who I know love me. My wife Val and some of my other friends and family members for example.

But over and above that, there is a verse in the Bible that has stayed with me as a constant reminder that when life is bleak, there is always someone around:

‘The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.’ – Psalm 34:18

This was written by King David who certainly had many occasions to feel broken-hearted and with crushed spirit. Many of those he brought on himself, but other times came when family and friends deeply disappointed him.

Yet David knew in his very core, that no matter how bad it got – because let’s face it having your heart broken or your spirit crushed are two of the lowest places you can go – God had promised to never leave him to go through it alone.

Reach out and ask

I have experienced the truth of that promise and it is available to you as well. I think it might be a bit more appealing if God told us He would take away all the bad stuff and never let us get to those dark places. But then we would lose our ability to make choices as He would always need to be swooping in and stopping things.

But just knowing that He will not leave us alone when times are hard, even if everyone else deserts us, is such a powerful hope and reminder.

If you are facing a tough time today, I encourage you to cry out to God and take Him up on that promise. Ask Him to give you strength and perseverance to get through the hard times, but also wisdom to know what to do next.

I can guarantee you that is one prayer God really loves to answer.

Bad things deserve punishment – Don’t they?

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I imagine most people have heard the story of Jonah and the whale from the Bible, right?

God sends one of his prophets (called Jonah) to preach to a city and warn them of an impending judgement and instead Jonah hops on a boat headed in the opposite direction. When the boatsmen realise Jonah is to blame, they throw him overboard and a huge fish swallows him and spits him up on the shore. Jonah then goes and does what God says.

But a lot of people might not know what happens next. The city responds to Jonah’s preaching and turn their lives around and God saves them from the judgement He had warned them about. Reason to celebrate, right?

But Jonah didn’t think so.

A man and a vine

The Bible tells us that Jonah’s response is to be angry with God:

But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant.  But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered.  When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die,and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”

But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”

“It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”

But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight.  And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”

God’s primary desire is that none shall be lost

We get to see the heart and character of God in this story. As well as the tendency of mankind to make it all about ourselves.

A hundred and twenty thousand people receive mercy from God and the prophet is disappointed because he thought they deserved God’s wrath. Yet when it came to Jonah, he thought he deserved God’s favour and so when that (in the form of the vine) was removed, he responded again in anger.

Do you ever find yourself like that? We are okay with other people receiving justice for the bad things they do, but when it comes to us we would much rather have mercy.

The Bible teaches us that all sin is equal in the eyes of God in terms of the distance it puts between us and God. But in my day to day, if I am completely honest, I like to think my sin is not as bad as the next person’s. And while I am perfectly okay with God raining down judgement on them, I would rather He gave me a second chance, and a third chance, and a fourth chance.

Grant me this compassion

Mother Theresa prayed this simple prayer asking God to give her compassion:

Lord, open our eyes,
that we may see you in our brothers and sisters.

Lord, open our ears,
that we may hear the cries of the hungry,
the cold, the frightened, the oppressed.

Lord, open our hearts,
that we may love each other as you love us.

Renew in us your spirit.

Lord, free us and make us one.

Amen

As we live life and hope for God’s mercy to fall on us, may we pray this prayer together so that we might be filled with the kind of compassion for those we encounter that we would love to receive if we were in their shoes.

When you can’t make all the choices

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Almost three years ago my wife and I halved our meat consumption. We did that by having one week of regular eating and then one week where we don’t eat meat. The weeks we do eat meat we don’t eat a crazy amount of it – just what we used to eat before – maybe two to three times a week. Plus leftovers.

Sometime in the last two years we started buying a lot of our food from something called the Good Food Club which is food that has been ethically sourced from local farmers – some of it is a little more expensive but we know that we are supporting local and therefore it feels like a good choice and so we do that.

Then when it comes to Green products that are organic or environment friendly, or both, we have a number of those that we invest in, in terms of soaps and cleaning liquids and more.

But in each of these areas there is always more that can be done.

Good choices can be expensive

What we have discovered as we have tried to live well, is that you can always do better. Once we started looking at our meat there was our overall food to look at. Once we had made steps there, there were cleaning products. Then there was the environment. Recycling. Saving water. The list goes on.

The moment you think you might have got a grip on all the right things you need to do, someone asks about that cheap t-shirt you are wearing with a ‘made in China’ label hidden somewhere in the back. You grow a conscience about eating at Spur because of the whole Indian vibe which you know makes your American friends who visit very uncomfortable. So you start boycotting restaurants and avoiding certain types of clothing.

It can become terribly overwhelming. Paralysing in fact. You very likely won’t get it all right all of the time. But that shouldn’t stop you from getting any of it right.

There was a time when we ate X amount of meat. Now we eat half of that. Will there be a time when we eat no meat at all? Possibly. And we will continue to have conversations with our vegetarian and vegan friends and learn new and exciting recipes and maybe lean towards that, but for now half X is a great step.

And so on in all the other areas.

The journey of a thousand miles

When you can’t make all the choices, start by making some.

That is the best way to get past the feeling of being overwhelmed – start by intentionally taking one step that you can make – one change, one new thing or one less of a bad thing. And then add to it.

That is how we find ourselves in the place we are now (which could still be better but is a lot better than where we were three years ago) and we continue to have sometimes difficult conversations and challenge ourselves to be better and try new things out. And it works.

Let us know some of the choices you have intentionally made in some of these areas, in the comments below.

You have to have Ambition: new card game review

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A week ago I joined about twenty people at the Big Box, a popular local games cafe,  to battle it out and see who would emerge as the top Ambition player in a free tournament set up to help release the game.

The Release of Ambition

What was super exciting about this particular game launch is that this was not a case of the usual suspects of international board game producers, legends such as Rio Grande, Z-Man or Fantasy Flight. Rather this was the work of local fulltime lawyer Robert Acton and his new game Ambition which he is slowly rolling out to the public.

As Craig Risi writes in his game review of Ambition:

‘Ambition is a simple game consisting of only 16 cards and a few tokens, yet one with multiple layers of depth and strategy once you become familiar with it.

The game has a fairly low barrier of entry with the rules being simple and easy to understand. Though the cards can be a little difficult to get to know and understand, it normally will only take a few games to get into the swing of things.’

And it really is that. Having watched a brief explanation video on You Tube that Robert had featured in, I arrived feeling fairly confident that I knew what was going on and was even able to explain it to some friends who I had invited to join me.

The how of the game is very easy – typically you have two cards in hand and have to pass one on to the next player and then play one of your remaining cards face down. So people know something of what you have in your hand and then it becomes a guessing game of strategy vs audacity to decide which card you’ve played. Because before the cards are revealed, each player gets to block one character and if it is the one you have chosen to play, you lose your turn.

That is the game in a nutshell where the purpose is to gain ten coins that the different character cards help you gain or steal through different abilities each one of them has. If you play the king you get three straight coins [so guess who gets blocked a lot]; the thief will allow you to steal two coins from other players; while the assassin will remove a character from the game forever [goodbye thief!]. And so on.

Simple yet devastating in the complexity of each turn

Craig Risi chatted to Robert Acton about some of the planning behind this particular game:

“It started around simplicity. I’ve designed many other far more complex games before Ambition and I’ve learnt if you want to make a game appeal to a wide audience, it needs to be easy to understand and yet deep enough to keep you playing. Excitement with complexity.

People get turned off by too much complexity in games. I was initially driven by the themes behind the different cards. Having special cards in a game that make a difference to the game at hand when they come into play and took it from there.

I went through many extensive sessions of development, but it was only when I came across the blocking mechanic, that I knew this might game could finally be a viable option.”

It really is a good game

After five rounds of nerve-wracking and intense competition I managed to make it to the final table where at one point there were three of us with eight points and another person on nine chasing that elusive final point.

I did not win and claim the autographed copy of Ambition that was on offer but I did walk away with a new game that I want to get my hands on soon.

I play a lot of board and card games and I have to admit that most of the news ones I have learnt in the last year or so feel like they have a short shelf life. Play it five or six times and then you will be bored. Whereas Ambition joins favourites like Settlers of Catan, Lords of Waterdeep and Dominion that you can keep pulling out regularly and playing again.

I went to Robert afterwards to personally tell him that I believe Ambition is a good game – not just a good game ‘for a South African’ but a really good game. There has been so much thought put into the balance and nuance of the characters and the abilities that multiple plays with different people will force a consistently transitioning strategy depending on what cards are in play and how your opponents choose to play them.

If you are looking for a simple yet challenging game to add to your games table, or even if you are looking to start playing some games with friends [Ambition works best with 3 to 5 players] then consider getting your hands on this game before it goes International as I have no doubt it will.

 

The hardest thing God asks of you

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Love your neighbour.

Wait? What? Surely the hardest command is going to be a little heavier than that?

How about don’t seek revenge when someone treats you badly? Or don’t sleep with someone until you’re married to them? Or maybe don’t sleep with someone who is married to someone else? Or something about having thirds when you really know you probably shouldn’t have even had seconds this time around?

I would suggest to you that loving your neighbour might very likely be the hardest command that you will find in any religion.

The Greatest Commandment

It is also the greatest and most important.

It was presented to Jesus in the form of a trap – the Pharisees, who were religious leaders in the Jewish Temple, were always trying to catch Jesus out and we read in Matthew 22 this interaction between them:

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested Him with this question:  “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Two become one

What might be seen as interesting is that they ask for one commandment and it looks like Jesus gives them two.

Yet, there seems to be such an interconnectedness between the two, that it comes across as one – if you truly love God with everything, a natural response will be to love your neighbour. And as you love your neighbour, in doing that you are actively loving God.

So we’ve established that it is the most important command – in fact Jesus’ final statement about all of Jewish scripture hanging on this really nails that point home. But how is it the most difficult?

Who is my neighbour?

We start to see the difficulty when we follow Jesus around a little bit longer and listen to what He says and watch how He lives.

If ‘my neighbour’ was a geographical thing then most of us would probably be okay. After all we tend to hang around with people who are like us. We move into communities of people with a similar social standing and economic situation. Loving the person who lives next door is not so hard.

But Jesus goes on to tell the story we know as ‘The Good Samaritan’ where He takes the greatest villain of the Jew (the Samaritans, who they absolutely hated, more even than the Romans who were ruling over them) and makes him the hero of the piece. The accompanying message is that we need to love our enemy, who is revealed to be our neighbour.

Suddenly the command takes on a whole new meaning.

A difficult but beautiful command

As hard as it is to follow though, ‘Love your neighbour’ becomes such a thing of beauty and transformation when followed to the degree that Jesus called for.

And modelled. It is extremely helpful and vital to remember that this was not just a nice saying from some religious leader. Jesus lived this to the absolute extreme in His life, and even in His death.

He was constantly reaching out to people who were seen as ‘less than’ in His day which among others included women, children, those who were sick and in particular those suffering from leprosy, tax collectors and even Samaritans.

As He lay dying on the cross, one of the last statements He called out was for God to forgive those who had done that to Him “for they know not what they do!” 

So there you have it – the most difficult command to try to obey, but the one that could have the greatest impact in the lives of everyone around you. Which is why millions of people have taken up the call to follow Jesus and love their neighbours, knowing full well that they need God’s help to make that happen in any kind of real way.

How about you?

If not me, then who?

I was pondering this question while washing the dishes this morning.

And the answer in that moment was Valerie. My wife. If I don’t do these dishes, then she has to.

That may not seem like a super profound thought in and of itself, but if I responded to not feeling like washing the dishes without asking it, then I may simply have stopped washing the dishes.

But the moment I go to the place of ‘If I don’t then she has to’ and I know her day is a much heavier one in terms of workload and stress, then it becomes so much easier.

Do it if it’s a good thing to do

It’s probably not the best motivation in terms of why we do things. If I think of not littering or stepping into an area of racism or sexism that presents in front of me, actually those are just good things to do in and of themselves. I shouldn’t need the motivation of ‘this will fall to someone else’ to help me to something that is good.

So motivation-wise it is not the best. But conscience-wise it can help. And it plays out with a number of scenarios:

1. The good thing I can do.

This one is easy. There are certain things that are my job or duty to do and if I don’t do them it means that someone else has to. In a marriage situation that is typically going to be your spouse and in a family situation probably a parent and most likely your mom.

So do the stuff you need to do for starters. This should not even be up for discussion. The moment that my wife has to pick up my dirty clothes or make sure my hockey gear gets washed or take my dishes to the sink, we have a serious problem.

2. The good thing someone else didn’t do.

The example of litter works here. I can’t stand it when people litter because it can really have such a run on effect in a neighbourhood and because it is also such an easy thing to avoid.

But for whatever reason, many people don’t seem to get that (I’m looking at you, parents!) and I will come across a paper, can or bottle in the street and it is not really my place to pick it up because I didn’t drop it there. But then take a moment to ask the question – if not me, then who? And realise that with litter, once there are three pieces on the ground, it is so much easier to leave a fourth.

Realising that in that moment I am the one that is there and it is something that is so easy for me to do. For the sake of the neighbourhood and the community and whoever comes along next, I can just pick it up.

3. The bad thing that I can interrupt.

This category feels most significant for me. When someone’s car is broken down at the side of the road or someone is having a seizure in a public place or someone is being verbally assaulted because of their race, it can be so easy to avert my eyes and make like it’s not my problem and move on. And I think most people do that.

But it is also an opportunity for me to do something good. By hoping that someone else is going to step in and make it stop, there is the possibility that I am dooming that situation to not be addressed at all. Because that is how most people think – I will let someone else do it.

Whose responsibility is it anyway?

Perhaps if we shifted the question around we might find an easier answer. If we head back to my sink full of dishes, then there is an opportunity to serve my wife. It may be her responsibility as much as it is mine in terms of seeing that the dishes are done. But by getting there first, I can take on the responsibility while freeing her from it.

Because it is a responsibility it is not as if it is a gift in the sense that it would be if it was her job in the first place. As a person who lives in this house I am one of the people who needs to keep things clean. But when the responsibility doesn’t particularly fall on one person over the other, then it can be an action that acts a bit like a gift, because now my wife has one less thing to contemplate doing.

Let’s try keep this question – If not me, then who? – in our minds and hearts as we navigate our way round our homes and cities this week. And let’s be quick to act so that someone else doesn’t have to.

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