Accountability has fascinated me for a decade or more. I teach about it over and over. I am a student of it as well. Because of this, I am a stickler at times for how the word is used. I rarely if ever ask to hold someone accountable; the concept of doing so is foreign to my understanding of the word and processes that move me to act. For example, if I assess a situation and determine that the best I can do is alert someone else who needs to take action, I am not holding them accountable. I am being accountable myself to the degree of my power and control of things.
My perspective on accountability leads me down some pathways that, if not exactly odd, are at least not normal. (Normal is another beef of mine. Normal got us into the mess we are in and only non-normal is likely to get us out of it. That’s another week of blogging, however.) This week, these are some of the pathways I pursued:
- In the frigid wind-tunnel outside a train station, I asked the vet standing there how much more he needed to get a room. I gave it to him.
- While shopping at a company store, I noticed that all of the shoes I liked in the section labeled my size were actually a size or two smaller than mine. They were misplaced accidentally or on purpose. But, since I like them all and they were all smaller, I thought these might have been misplaced by a shopper or staff person on purpose to keep them out of circulation. I reported the error to a manager.
- After being on the line with United Health Care for 56 minutes (you have to love smart phones for that feature), I was told that the receipts I had scanned and downloaded three weeks ago were indeed in the system, but I would need to do the task again because the system was not “cooperating.” I asked for a manager. When he introduced himself, he said he understood I was having a problem. I suggested that if the largest health insurance company in the United States, the insurer with the largest number of employees in North American, could not find a way to get its systems to “cooperate” without me repeating a process, it was he who was having a problem. He agreed and the system “cooperated” in under five minutes.
- I devoted some time today to designing the protest sign I intend to take to the polls in February to inform people about the erosion of our voting rights by the requirement of a photo ID.
- I picked up a yard sign for a candidate, stopped to talk with a newly elected suburban school board member, and encouraged a teller at the bank to go back to school to get an advanced degree.
I also had breakfast yesterday with a friend and colleague who makes my level of accountability look paltry. I had a four topic agenda for our time together and they ended up looking like parsley on the plate next to the entrée of her life. In other words, my examples are just that — examples. It would be useful for us all to tick off examples of catching ourselves being accountable in hopes of improving on our performance.
The process of accountability requires us to give up indifference and blame. It demands that we move beyond hopes and prayers that someone else will come to save the day. Accountable people size up situations, figure out where they have power to do something, make a plan to do it, and then do it.
A dear friend of mine, Tom, also has a blog and he is a gifted writer. I read his posts daily at 1wholelife.wordpress.com. Tom describes One Whole Life as his musings on life from an LGBT, spiritual, political, wellness, holistic perspective. It is that and more. We have decided that next week we will be doing parallel blogs on a topic from our different but complementary perspectives. I hope you will read us both.