Friday, April 29, 2011

Moral Obligation

My attempt at becoming Elizabeth isn't wishful thinking.  I really, ultimately, want to be just like this woman.  But it's been an uphill battle with setbacks and relapses, like forgoing the waking up really early, praying, and stretching pledge throughout the entire Easter vacation.  I tried words of encouragement: "You can do this.  With real determination, this can be done!" When that didn't work, a little guilt trip:  "How could you sleep through the morning?  You've made a commitment, aren't you ashamed?" Then, slander: "You lazy louse! You've no right to look at yourself in the mirror!"  Nevertheless, I made the more desirable yet less plausible choice:  I slept in late during my vacation.

I kept telling myself to just make the right choice.  Choose to get up early.  Choose to pray early.  Choose to stretch. Late one morning during the break and stricken with guilt, I suddenly started stretching in the middle of the kitchen floor much to the bewilderment of my kids and my 3-year-old nephew.  I pulled, bent, arched like a cat and they watched in stunned silence, clutching on to their juice boxes.  I think they knew that I was trying to pacify a guilty conscience.

There hasn't been a day in weeks that I do not carry on a conversation with the woman in Proverbs 31.  How did Elizabeth do it?  Did she never, ever desire to sleep in?  Did she never, ever neglect her family for a day because she had to prepare for a Board Exam?  Was she never tempted to walk out of the house in sloppy sweats because it took too much effort to wrap her body in purple linen?  How was she, daily, able to make the better choice?  I think of the first day I studied with fervent commitment the first weekend of Spring break.  I had ten modules to do and one of the modules alone had over 600 questions but there I was at Starbucks, a Skinny Latte in hand, books on the table, a laptop with an expensive review software blinking in front of me.  I had tunnel vision, concentrating, focused.  Then the next day I found out Starbucks had free wifi and continuous access to facebook and attention deficit became my friend.

At the end of my Easter break I decided to take a breather from studying and assess a supervision case I was offered.  The hours were going to be painfully inconvenient, the paperwork unreasonable, the pay less than half of my usual hourly rate.  I pride myself in having a heart but also a bigger brain which carries within its cerebrum some common sense.  It was, to say the least, a perfunctory visit.

I sat across brandnew parents devastated by a recent diagnosis of autism.  The father held his non-verbal daughter in his arms, answering questions I'm sure he had been asked a million times before. I watched the therapist work with the child and then I listened to stories of frustration, the disorganized behavior programs, the team meetings with no direction, the lack of appropriate lessons because of the absence of a skilled supervisor. And then I watched the child look up at me, her baby blue eyes bright, her smile beautiful and contagious.  She made only incoherent sounds and she screamed to gain access to her wants.  I could feel the wheels in my head turning and I could see in this mental conveyer belt an array of behavior interventions that could quickly target areas of deficit which would provide skills for the child and hope for the parents.  I thought of the schedule again, the amount of paper work involved and the lack of compensation.  "Don't..." I told myself. "Don't do it."

I shook hands with the parents.  I shook hands with the therapist, then I stooped down to meet the child face to face.  I would do the best I could, I tell them, smiling at the child.  I could not make any promises but I would do my best and if all things go well, progress in the most basic needed skills should develop and develop quickly.

I stood in that livingroom and realized that not all decisions are made from choices. There are just some things that do not come from a heiarchy of selections and are not weighed on the balance of self-gain or convenience. Rather, some decisions are made out of moral obligation.

And maybe Elizabeth lived her life that way.  Her devotion to her God, to her family, to the less fortunate and even to herself was not founded on a mere choice. Perhaps both her position of leadership and servitude came from a sense of moral obligation. And perhaps it was this moral obligation that contributed to her life of virtue.


  1. YOu are just the bomb! Applause, applause!

  2. Heartfelt and moving. I enjoyed reading this post even though the subject matter detailed the mundane everyday struggle that we wrestle with and only for moments in our lives do we sometimes experience true guilt. Just as you said in so many words, the expectations of you for the betterment of yourself is void in the comparison of the expectancy of a normal healthy child for those parents. I like this self questioning piece.

  3. Thank you, Anonymous! I was already ready to turn down the case but what actually brought me to the house was the evaluation report--I saw how low functioning the child was and I felt a sense of obligation to atleast assess the situation. Once there, I couldn't turn my back on the child and those parents. I just couldn't. (BTW, you're really articulate. Do I know you?lol)

  4. You're most welcome my friend. Again I wanted to say that you wrote a wonderful piece here, and that your writings are very humorous and quite insightful. Please keep them coming, as I enjoy also reading the comments made to your work. good job young lady!

  5. Also, it is worth noting, that it was very reassuring to read that a family in search of assistance, was not denied a basic human need, compassion. Well done!

  6. Thanks again, Anonymous! It's readers like you who keep me writing. Are you Grace, by the way? Or are you staying incognito? lol.

  7. Anna Marie, for now, I shall remain as just an admirer of your work.

  8. Ok, Anonymous. Thanks for the great comments! :-)