I was talking to a friend about something I didn’t want to do but believed I needed to do anyway. I was dreading it and feeling irritable. Often when we talk like that, other people scowl and say, “Oh don’t let shoulds control your life. If you don’t want to be doing it, don’t.”
But this man understood.
“At the risk of sounding old-fashioned,” he said, “duty calls.”
What’s there to say about duty? It’s a job, for different reasons, that needs to be done—whether we really want to or feel like it.
“I haven’t watched a football game from beginning to end without interruption for almost three years,” a father of two young children said. “I adore and love my children. But sometimes I miss football too.”
One of the children began rubbing his eyes. “Ready for your bottle?” the father asked. The child nodded. The man turned away from the football game on TV, patted his son on the head, and went to the kitchen to fix the bottle instead.
I learned about duty when my children, Nichole and Shane, were born. A lot of things needed to be done to take good care of them, whether I felt like doing all of those things or not.
I learned throughout the years that even the most exciting jobs have uninteresting and sometimes distasteful duties. When I worked for a daily newspaper, I loved my job. I enjoyed covering front-page news. But many of the stories I was assigned to were duty stories.
Sometimes a relative needs help. A parent may get sick, grow old, or become vulnerable or infirm. While we don’t want to become duty-bound and strap our entire lives with shoulds, there are times in any relationship—family, romantic, or friend—when a code of honor rules and we do what we must.
“I believe we have deeper duties too,” a friend said. “If we’ve been given sobriety, spiritual growth, or gifts, I believe that it’s our duty to pass those gifts along and share them when we’re asked.”
It may be something we need to do to maintain a relationship with someone we love. It could be something we need to do that we’d rather not as part of taking care of ourselves. The task may be something we need to do for work or as part of our spiritual mission in life.
Go ahead. Say arrrgh. Dread what you’re about to do. I know, there are more interesting and exciting things calling your name. But for a moment, can you put those things aside?
Value: The value we’ll look at this week is putting one foot in front of the other and doing what we must when duty calls.
From the book: 52 Weeks of Conscious Contact
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