Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Inspired to Action

On the Inspired to Action website, today's inspiration comes from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: "Let everyone sweep in front of his own door and the whole world will be clean."

On a completely non-spiritual note, in Germany to this day (not just when Goethe was hanging around) it is expected that everyone who owns (or is renting) a house, keep the street in front of said house clean, by sweeping it once a week during the non-winter months, and by shoveling the snow off of the sidewalk whenever that is necessary during the winter months. For this reason, my brother, sister and I all had to clean the sidewalk every Saturday when we lived in Germany, each of us having a specific section for which we were responsible. Thankfully, my parents took care of shoveling the snow when it had the audacity to fall during the night in the winter (you had to have the sidewalk clear by something like 6:30 or 7:00 in the morning), although I remember helping with this task occasionally (on Saturdays) as well.

It's an interesting thing about the German psyche --- you do something simply because it is the right thing to do. To the best of my recollection there isn't an actual law requiring people to do this, although their neighbors will remark on it if it isn't done (and removing the snow in the winter has to do with safety, etc.) And if you don't do the right thing, people will take it upon themselves to point out to you the extent to which you've missed the mark. In like manner, if you live in an apartment complex, you are required to clean the windows and stairs in the common areas (how often depends on how many people are in the rotation), and you are expected to respect the posted "quiet times". This is all set by the owner/landlord.

There is certainly something to all of this --- it's not just about taking care of things that are your own, the care of which affects only you, but also the bits in your purview that will affect the well-being of others. It's a remarkable amount of personal responsibility, especially when you consider that Germany has a strong social safety net; i.e. is a country, where people might be expected to sit around and wait for the government or someone else to take care of those things.

In very small ways, it makes the world a nicer place, bit by bit. How can we step a little further out of our comfort zone and affect the world around us in a positive way?

1 comment:

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