Croskey’s Corner: Dependability
Several years ago, Character First! had a story on its website about Dependability. In A.D. 79, Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried the city of Pompeii. Archeologists uncovered the remains of some 2,000 inhabitants fleeing or seeking shelter in attics. But one soldier remained at his post, his hand gripping the hilt of his sword. From the standpoint of military Dependability, this soldier was Dependably brave to the point of death. Not only did he refuse to leave his post, he was engulfed by lava and died in the effort. I believe the U.S. has many soldiers such as this today, some of them from the Greater Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky, and Southeast Indiana area. They are Dependable soldiers who pull their share of the load – and then some. Our nation benefits from their Dependability. But, the first responders, sanitation workers, teachers, indeed, all workers who show up reliably every day benefit our country as well.
But the story also got me to thinking about those who must decide if or when to leave their “posts.” One of the “I will…” statements is to “Be careful what I promise.” I think this means that I should consider how far I am willing to go in carrying out a promise I make. Until others decide it’s time to leave? Until I am the last one standing? Until death? It also means to me that I should be careful not to commit myself to projects I cannot complete, or which interfere with my previous commitments. The lesson may then be that we should not commit to “posts” which are not worthwhile, or not matched to our skills, or which stretch us to the point that we are not as Dependable about our other commitments. Conversely, a spouse who remains in an abusive relationship might certainly be described as Dependable. At what cost to self? And for what greater good? A teacher who has high standards (read: “expectations”) may be reluctant to revise those expectations for students who are less able in that skill area. Dependability can degenerate into pigheadedness when it is not tempered with other Character Qualities such as Cautiousness (Knowing how important right timing is in accomplishing right actions), Discernment (Understanding the deeper reasons why things happen), and Flexibility (Willingness to change plans or ideas with a good attitude). NOTE: It is hard enough to adhere to these Character Qualities by themselves; it gets even stickier trying to follow several overlapping Qualities at once. But, maybe I am over-thinking this. Maybe we mostly know when we need to be Dependable, steadfast, enduring and “there” for others. It’s doing it that is hardest.
Woody Allen is reported to have said, “95% of Life is Just Showing Up.” For me, one has to be there in order to be Dependable. I am not sure my generation understands this. But people from the era that Tom Brokaw called “The Greatest Generation” know how to be there when it counts. I am reminded of the former secretary at Loveland Intermediate School, Margaret Keifer. Margaret taught me a great deal about “showing up.” When a baby shower is held, she is there. When someone gets married, she’s there. When a friend dies, she goes to the visitation and the funeral. When someone has a bake sale, she shows up with brownies. She visits the graves of family members on Memorial Day, makes it to retirement parties, and stays to clean up afterwards. Sometimes, when I don’t want to have to attend something like this, I think, “What would Margaret do?” Then I pull on my shoes and get moving. Oh, by the way, Margaret was 90.
Dependability suggests that we need to Be There when called on, But what if we fail the “Be There” test? Well, I remember from my childhood playing Putt-Putt and other types of miniature golf. Sometimes, my fellow players would allow me a “Do Over.” In other words, if I took a shot, and messed it up, I might be allowed to take the shot again. What a grace-filled gift! I hear people say, though, that there are no “Do Overs” in life. I guess that must follow from “You only go around once,” “You only get one shot,” “Don’t blow your only chance,” or “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Well, I went to the dentist the other day. They had to take an impression of my upper jaw. It got messed up the first time. I said to the technician, “I guess I made a bad first impression.” Tee hee. Know what? They made another one. We got a “Do Over.” I suspect that there are more “Do Over” chances in life than we are led to believe. This is less from the “Go around once” school of living, and more from the “Do it til you get it right” approach. So, if you didn’t succeed in Being Dependably There when your sacrifice was needed, it’s usually not too late. Be There now. Go ahead.