The Writing on the Wall

"no right or wrong just the consequences of your actions" Destiny (sorry about the wall)

I’ve got a new habit – one that I like. Going for a walk every morning by the beach. Since I started early in the spring there’s a message in graffiti on a wall that continues to grab my attention.

“No right or wrong just the consequences of your actions!” Destiny.

and a p.s.,

Sorry about the wall.

I think it attracted me because it’s scary and exciting! Ever since I was a little girl I was “good” – you know the type, plays nicely, smiles at visitors, helps mother in the kitchen, works hard at school and doesn’t bring shame on the family. Good was: follow the rules that parents and teachers have set and fit in with what others in your community believe is right.

And it worked very well for me, I got plenty of positive attention and I rarely got into trouble at school. But the things that work well for us as children, don’t work so well when we grow up. Now, I did my best to force the same kind of goodness into my adult relationships, my committee memberships, my working life, my church life and it worked – to a point. (Let me just say, in my defense, that I was unaware that I was forcing something, it was a habit I had never noticed, it was normal to me.)

When I joined something or helped someone I was doing what was generally considered right. I never checked if I wanted to help or to join – I was asked so I said yes. When my daughter was seven I joined the parents association at her school because I heard it was a great place to learn about advances in education. To be a good parent was the right thing and to gain information for my daughter’s education was being a good parent.

I was there about a month when I had another opportunity to do the right thing. The chairman, wanting to retire from her position, asked for volunteers for the role of chairman. Long story short she needed help, she’d been in the job for years, no one volunteered, it was the right thing to do so I said yes!

Less than six months later I had resigned (in tears) after a particularly bitter feud between the committee and the school board. Friendships were damaged and it was a big mess.

Now, I’m not saying it was all my fault, but would things have turned out as bad under a chairman who wanted the role for reasons other than to be good and to do the right thing?

That experience was a turning point for me. Being good up to that point brought me compliments, friends, gifts. Now it brought me notoriety in my community, criticism from my peers, and angry thoughts in my head. I imagined everyone was talking about me (in a bad way) and I was certainly talking to myself, in a bad way!

Nearly 15 years later I’m not so good and I don’t do the right thing so often! That’s why the graffiti excites me. I’ve replaced doing the right thing with being responsible for the consequences. And that’s what scares me – it’s easier to do what everyone else thinks is right than to be responsible. The right thing is: follow the rules others have set and fit in with a moral code that’s in majority in your community at this time. Being responsible is: look at each situation as it happens and decide based on your own wisdom and beliefs what is the right thing for you to do and then live with the consequences.

I’ve just finished reading a book called The Help by Kathryn Stockett. It’s a story about how black maids were treated in Mississippi in the 1960’s. The moral majority in 1960’s Mississippi considered all black people as second class citizens and treated them as such. In 2009 things are different and the moral majority in the United States agreed that it was right to elect Barack Obama. Would there have been a black president sooner if everyone considered each situation as it happened and picked (based on their own wisdom) the responsible thing instead of the right thing?

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