I was in a safety meeting this morning and a topic came up about individual responsibility. Now there is a topic for you – a lost art, this concept of individual responsibility. Not in our day and age anyway. We can always find someone else to blame for whatever ails each and every one of us. Momma didn’t love me enough, daddy was too stern, or the bullies were mean to me in school; so I went on a tri-state killing spree but it wasn’t my fault. That’s facetious, but you get my drift.
However, in the meeting this morning, (and thankfully because I had my pulpit ready to go when the topic was first mentioned) the content instead revolved around the responsibility of a person to watch out and be alert for his or her own safety in the workplace. Furthermore, we discussed the responsibility we had to others around us, to warn them if what they were doing was unsafe. The concept of not being your brother’s keeper pales comparatively when your crew works around rotating equipment that contains knives and sharp edges on said equipment. The general consensus by the end of the meeting was to make sure all of our employees understood the importance of watching out for each other.
As I walked back to my office, I thought about a time I had to intervene in the safety of my youngest son. I guess he was four years old at the time, and was ‘helping’ his daddy work on a 1941 John Deere 'H' tractor. I was standing there watching it idle, trying to diagnose an intermittent miss-fire and of course he was right under me. The old tractor has an exposed flywheel, and it was spinning, as they do, while the engine was in play. Something caught my eye, call it serendipity but I know better, and somehow I knew what he was about to do before he did it. Casually he stuck his hand out to grab the spinning flywheel, and thankfully, before he could do so, I grabbed his hand and pulled him back. Even today I shudder to think of the possibilities of a four-year-old hand coming in contact with the jagged bolts in the center of a spinning flywheel. It could have been bad, indeed, and I would have had to live with his damage for the rest of my life.
A few months later he and I were walking through the woods to my parent’s house, him in the lead and babbling incessantly as they do at that age, when I looked ahead and saw a moccasin crossing the path ahead of us. A very angry snake he was, and we were both a potential vent for all of his reptilian frustrations. I stopped Tyler in time, and I used a convenient stick to dispatch the snake to his celestial dirt nap. But it could have been bad. Very small children and snake bites are just not meant for each other.
I watched out for Tyler back then, and I do so now. Sometimes I do better at it than at other times, but for the most part, he has survived with no more than a close call or two. It’s my job as a parent, I get that, and so I do the best I can. It’s been that way with all of my kids over the years, and it is not something a father does to get a medal or achieve public acclaim. Watching out for your children falls more often than not in the areas of responsibility and duty, and should never be merely for justification or a perceived reward. You watch out for them. And you do your utmost to keep them safe. After all, it’s a very dangerous world we live in today.
We watch out for our children because we know the ropes, we’ve been there. We have the experience garnered and stored over our lifetime to share with them. Things like ‘don’t go barefoot on a cold day or you’ll get a sore throat’ and ‘get your finger away from that wall socket or you’ll get shocked’ go hand-in-hand with ‘if everybody jumped off a cliff, would you?’
I was thinking how this principle of watching out for our children also applies to the relationship between older, mature Christians and younger, newer members of the Family of G_d. Walking the Christian walk is difficult enough when you try and go it alone. It gets a lot easier when you have someone on the path with you, especially someone with a little more maturity and experience in the issues each of us will surely face in life. In my walk I have been blessed with many wonderful examples to follow from older folks who knew the way to go. They were quick to point out the flaws in my behavior, and most importantly, they shared their advice with more than a little bit of love thrown in for good measure. Because of the things they taught me and showed me along the way, I can be a better Christian today.
We are our brother’s keeper. Paul writes: “As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children. That ye would walk worthy of G_d, who hath called you unto His kingdom and glory.” That’s plain enough for me. It is our responsibility to watch out for our fellow brothers and sisters in the same manner as we would watch out for our very own children. In return, it is comforting to know that they will also be there watching out for us.
That's a very important relationship to have when the devil puts those proverbial spinning flywheels and poisonous snakes across our path.