80: Rights and Responsibilities

We have a fight going on all of our lives: the fight between our rights and our responsibilities.

When we are born, we have few responsibilities. Mom and dad, our loving caretakers, handle all that stuff on our behalf. They provide housing (a huge expense), our clothing (ditto), our medical care (twice times ditto), our food (you get the picture). They even clean us. They also provide our entertainment and toys,all of our wants and needs. Well, our needs, anyway – even if not ALL of our wants.

Then, as we get older, we are expected to begin handling our own care. We are taught to brush our hair, brush and clean our teeth, eat nutritious meals (with VEGETABLES  :-(), pick up and put away our toys, be nice to other children when we play, and share. We are taught the word NO, and what that means. We are taught  not to hit others, even if we get mad and angry. We are taught to use the toilet, instead of our diaper. We are taught to wash our hands (I hope), and to take a bath to clean ourselves. We are supposed to clean our room. This process takes time, and we don’t learn all this right away. We need reminders, often! Our parents and older siblings help teach us to do these things for ourselves. These responsibilities usually result in new rights and privileges for us, and we show that we can be responsible persons.

Then, we get a little older, and there are more responsibilities. We start school. Suddenly, there are LOTS of new responsibilities: behavior and work in class and at home. There are rules to be obeyed, and we make friends, who have their own expectations of us. We learn more about what is right behavior, and what is wrong. We are expected to think, be honest and do our work to the best of our ability. We also gain new privileges: we can stay up later: visit friends outside the home, have sleepovers, and do more things than we used to be allowed to do. Soon, as the end of our schooling gets near, we gain the right to drive a car. That right comes with a host of new responsibilities: care of the vehicle, obedience to traffic signs, laws and officers. We must use our judgment and critical thinking skills to make the right, and best, decisions.  But what new freedoms we have! We can date, and attend parties, and do other things which have the potential to cause us great harm, if we are not sensible and careful, paying attention to our responsibilities.

Then we depart for college, and mom and dad’s influence is lessened a LOT, and we have the ability to decide many new things for ourselves: what time to get up and go to bed, what to eat, how to care for yourself and your laundry and your room and your vehicle.  If you ignore your responsibilities, you won’t do well. You can ruin your life, and actually cause your own death, as some do when they forget that life is precious, valuable, and must be cared for and protected.

Then you choose a mate and marry, and start a job and a family of your own. You just THOUGHT you had responsibilities BEFORE!! Now your whole life is ruled by them, even though you also have more freedoms than you ever did before, at the same time. You choose where to live, you choose how to deal with disagreements at work and at home. You craft your life in between your rights and your responsibilities.

When your children grow and leave home to begin their own lives, you can relax from the responsibilities a little, and begin to truly enjoy your rights and freedoms. You have earned them! As you continue to age, however, you discover that your freedoms begin to curtail as life begins to slow down for you, at least physically. As you age to the point that you cannot competently care for yourself, you find that your rights begin to diminish as you surrender to the care of others. At the end of your days, unless God claims you earlier, you will find yourself back at the beginning – cared for by others as you move towards death, your final surrender.

This is the cycle of life – a struggle between rights and responsibilities from beginning to end. How you handle that balance determines how satisfied you will be with what you lived and accomplished. Good luck – and be wise!

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