This I Believe

Debbie - Manhattan, Kansas
Entered on January 26, 2007

I believe in the values of reciprocity, stewardship, responsibility, citizenship, civic virtue, and love. These values probably best describe how I try to take care and give care in all that I do.

While important throughout my life, these values have meant different things to me at different times and some have been more important than others at different stages of my life. As a child, I can imagine that some days reciprocity meant the Golden Rule in its truest sense — “Do onto others as you would wish them do onto you.” Yet on other days its meaning might have been more like “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth;” negative reciprocity, so to speak. As a pre-adolescent, I am proud to look back and realize reciprocity remained important, but responsibility was also a value I took very seriously. As an adolescent I probably took the value of love too seriously because it was influenced more by my hormones rather than by my heart and soul. As a young adult, I more fully recognized the values of stewardship, citizenship, and civic virtue as I became more politically and socially aware and active during my college years. But, it wasn’t until I was a more mature adult – during our child-rearing years – that I was able to recognize that combined these particular values had helped to shape who I am, what I think, and why.

It was during this time, as my husband and I worked to instill our values in our children that I recognized that the value instilled in me most strongly as a child was the ethic of reciprocity. And it was then that I realized that it was important to me to live in a community and raise our children where the ethic of reciprocity was important too. The Midwest and specifically Manhattan, Kansas has been that community.

The ethic of reciprocity is more than the Golden Rule “do onto others” mantra – it is the simple belief that every person shares certain inherent human rights simply because of their membership in the human race. People individually are very different; they come in two main genders, different sizes, colors, and shapes; many races; three sexual orientations; and different degrees of ability. They follow many religious and economic systems, speak many languages, and follow many different cultures.

I believe children inherently know the ethic of reciprocity, but something happens to that inherent wisdom as they grow up – they lose it; we lose it, or at least a good portion of it. It seems as of late that children and families who are involved in certain organized religions are oftentimes convinced that the ethic of reciprocity does not apply to all human beings, but only to their fellow believers – their reciprocity is exclusive, not inclusive.

And thus something else I believe is that the greatest failure of organized religion is its historical inability to apply the ethic of reciprocity to all humans. It is my belief, and a belief shared by many, that religions should stress that their membership use the ethic of reciprocity when dealing with ALL persons – all persons of other religions, the other gender, other races, other sexual orientations, any “otherness.” Not doing so sends the wrong message to our children and creates a future that will continue to be filled with religiously-related oppression, discrimination, and perhaps even worse.