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As we remembered 9/11, it struck me that it has been decades since a family member has served in a foreign war, and until recently, it was easy to put my head in the sand about the everlasting war we are prosecuting. But, it has once again become personal.  

Our niece's husband, Peter, deployed to an extremely dangerous part of the world. As a Marine, Peter is well prepared to handle his assignment and more than willing to do his part. And our niece is prepared to do her part as well. We are extremely proud of them and grateful to Peter for his service.

Peter made a single request of his friends and family on Facebook before shipping out, which I am taking the liberty to paraphrase. "Please take good care of my country while I am gone."

Peter's request has been haunting me. It seems like such a small request from someone who is making such a huge sacrifice. So, I have been searching for specific actions that would help me do my part. I must admit that it is much easier to come up with is a list of things I cannot do. Things I cannot change. Yet I keep recycling Peter's request.

What does seem clear to me is that it takes so much more than our troops fighting bravely on foreign terrain to assure that our freedoms are protected and sustained.

We who enjoy these freedoms have a huge responsibility, as well. We don't hear nearly as much about our responsibilities as we do about our rights. I remember learning about our Bill of Rights in middle school. I do not remember learning about our "Bill of Responsibilities." Maybe I slept through that semester. 

Perhaps we all need a class in citizen responsibilities, renewable every four years lest we forget what our part is in sustaining our cherished freedoms. What might that class include? Here are some thoughts.

 - Be informed about the issues and challenges at all levels. Being informed helps to assure that our vote is making the impact we want it to make.
- Exercise our voting right/responsibility. So many citizens; so few votes. Why do we settle for such a small percentage of participation?
 - Stop the freedom-sapping practice of blaming others. When we blame others, we give them our power. We have to wait until they "see the light" before things get better. We literally do not recognize ways we might be able to help solve the problem. And so, while we are busy blaming someone, our collective problems grow larger, more complex.
- We need to make sure we are being heard and represented. We have the responsibility to express ourselves in productive and proactive ways. Ask hard questions. Be prepared to look for and implement tough solutions.

We need to listen to each other, especially to those with whom we disagree. Generous listening is the fuel of democracy.  Without it our system degrades into a kind of tawdry survival of the fittest...or richest...or loudest. In our work as coaches, we see time and again the paradox residing within any conflict. On one hand we can allow the conflict to become a source of rancor, blame and divisiveness. On the other we can use dialogue to explore the meaning behind our differences, and use that understanding to develop creative resolutions to the conflict leading to creative solutions to our problems.

We can acknowledge what we are already doing to practice responsible citizenship, and seek additional productive ways to engage in the issues and challenges we face together. We all had a hand in creating these challenges and we can all find ways to make improvements and protect the freedoms that Peter and countless other troops are putting their lives on the line for.

We wish Peter a safe deployment.  And we hope that Peter finds his country intact and just a little bit better upon his return. We will strive to do our part, just as we know Peter is doing his.

Jeanne Gladden

Born to be in business, Jeanne Gladden is a business coach, consultant and educator.

 

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