Commit themselves to their own, each other’s, and the group’s well-being.

This weekend I tried to remember the last time I promised to do something. I am not referring to showing up when I say I will or paying my bills. Both of those are promises of a sort, though I rarely call them such. I am also not alluding to those off-handed commitments made as bargaining material to get our pets to do what we want. I exempt here also those hard or impossible to keep promises like, “I will never hurt you.”

By promise, I mean that statement using the actual words promise or commit followed by an statement of action or inaction. The promise or commitment can also take the form of a contract. These would include:

  • I promise to bring the wine.
  • I commit to fulfilling this pledge in the next year.
  • I promise I won’t forget.
  • I commit to file my taxes earlier next year.
  • I promise to love you until I die.
  • I commit my next week to this project.

I do recall recently promising to do or not to do something, but frankly, I have forgotten what it was! I believe at the time I made it, the word promise seemed overly official for the circumstance. I also know that when I fulfilled my pledge, I felt relieved and promptly forgot about it. Completely.

In the past, I know I made some promises to my parents. A couple of weeks before my father died, for example, I promised to be a good and honest man, to work hard, and help when help was needed. To my mother, my commitment was quite different. I promised to help my sister who would take care of her. Our relationship worked best at a distance, so supporting my sister in doing whatever she thought best was my best shot at keeping me word

My first awareness of a promise to society was as a cub scout and then as a boy scout. We could not afford uniforms or, for that matter, the cost of the various activities and supplies necessary to get badges. So I really emphasized the free stuff, like working hard and helping out. About the same time I was a cub scout, I also started to really grasp the meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance and said it with fervor. Becoming a postulant in the Order of Capuchin Friars Minor also contributed to my take on commitment to society and community. There the promises were emphasized every day in the emphasis on vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience — really forsaking everything for a life of service and prayer.

1234040_10151930247528055_1425933429_nPaul, my late husband, really brought the notion of commitment to the forefront in my life. He was slow to commit during our first two years of dating. He was not showing interest in anyone else, nor was he expressing any dissatisfaction with our relationship. Finally, after a weekend of pestering him, Paul said, “If and when I move in with you, we will be together for the rest of our lives.” Several months later, he made that decision that we would live together and we were together for three decades. From the beginning Paul was very clear with me that he was the better suited for commitment, even though most people back then saw me as the more stable. Paul pointed out the slowness to commit for his part meant that he took it with the gravity it deserved.

As I think this week about my commitment to well-being, I am unsure if I fully grasp its implications. I might do some things to fulfill my pledge and promptly forget about it. Maybe I will support someone else in doing whatever they think is best. Or perhaps I will back out before taking my vows.

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