I’ve discovered that the secret to making this world a better place is to teach our kids to clean the house. Seriously. I don’t know about your kids, but mine are the laziest bums on earth. I try really hard to make them accountable for their actions. I refuse to pick up after them. If you put something down, please pick it up. Or better yet, put it away where it belongs in the first place. I know, I’m a dictator.
For example, take wet bath towels. Hang it up after use. If you choose to place it on the floor, pick it up and then hang it up. Or library books. After reading one, place it on the table. If you choose to place it on the couch or floor, pick it up and put it on the table. Or dishes. When finished with a meal, take the dishes to the sink, and after rinsing, place them in the dishwasher. Or shoes. Upon removing the shoes from your feet, do not leave them on the stairs or in the middle of the hallway. I think you get the general idea. It’s not a difficult concept really. Unless you’re my children.
I’m not sure why though. These have been the standard operating procedures since they were conceived. It’s not like I changed the rules and notified them through memos. It’s not like I didn’t offer trainings in these tasks. So I get a little irritated with them when the house is a mess and household objects are strewn about haphazardly.
I used to nag and bark and yell. Until one day I just had it. I sat down and finally shared with them my confusion in this matter. How? How is it possible that we still live like heathens? How is it possible that when I point out the living room is a mess, all I get back is a lot of indignant arguing? “It’s not mine!” “”It’s not my fault!” “I cleaned it up last time, it’s her turn!”
I asked them to listen to themselves. I asked why they’re wasting time and energy in assigning blame. I asked how this strategy is getting them closer to a solution. I asked how many times do we have to repeat this scenario a day, every day. And it suddenly hit me. This, right here, in my dirty house, is the root of our problems in the world.
I remind them of the recent news stories we’ve talked about–riots, the Confederate flag, race relations and systemic and societal issues that have created the current state of our union. I remind them that we personally had nothing to do with this country’s history of slavery, we personally had nothing to do with criminal justice biases in this country, we personally had nothing to do with the lack of education and economic opportunities in certain parts of this country. However, it is our responsibility to do what we can to rectify these issues. It’s not enough to simply say “Not me. I didn’t do it. It was like this when I got here.” It’s not enough to blame those who had an impact on these issues, and it’s not enough to say I’m sorry. It is our responsibility, even if it was not our fault, to make things right. We must all work together for a common goal. We must believe we are all on the same team.
I remind them global warming and the impact of pollution on our climate and planet is larger than the three of us and certainly started well before the three of us were born. But it’s our responsibility to do something about it now. Go green, reduce our carbon footprint, support systems that are economically responsible and innovative, pick up litter. Any and all of that. Work together. Cooperate. Stop blaming. Take action to make it right.
I tell them I shouldn’t even have to tell them to pick things up. I tell them they should know not to walk over toys on the ground or granola bar wrappers on the trail. If you see something, pick it up, even if it’s not yours. If you see something in this world, do something about it. An injustice, a waste, an underdog, a bully, a sorrow. If you see someone who needs help or a wrong that needs to be righted, it is your responsibility to do something about it. We are all on the same team. Even if you had nothing to do with the problem, it is your responsibility to be part of the solution.
Can’t we all just help each other, take care of each other? If you pick up your sister’s clothes, at some point she’ll pick up your toys. In the end, it all evens out if we choose to take care of each other. If we stop blaming. If we each just did the next right thing. Because if you’re modeling behavior, others will parrot said behavior. Because kindness is contagious, and if you do me a favor, chances are good I’ll do you a favor.
If we each adopted this attitude, the world would be a better place. And cleaner. I’ll be honest though, I have higher hopes for strides in social justice before a getting a clean house.