Now and then you’re going to find yourself having to do something you don’t want to do. When that happens, you don’t ask someone else to do it for you.
When my brother and I were teenagers, our septic tank got backed up. I don’t recall all the details of what happened (I mean… apart from the super-obvious) but I think because we didn’t live in an actual city (we lived kind of “out there”) we didn’t have a sewer system. We just had this big tank that filled up with poop.
Seems kind of medieval if you think about it. I mean it’s not like we were just chucking pots of poop out our windows into the streets but, honestly, we were so “out there” I wonder if anyone would have noticed.
Anyway… the tank filled up. In fact, it filled up so much that it got up into the pipes that were running through our house. As a result, our plumbing was in desperate need of clearing out.
This wasn’t the kind of clearing out that Drano can fix. This was something that required a company to come in and empty the tank and clean the pipes.
Well… we didn’t have the money for that. I mean, we did have someone come and empty the tank. But as for the pipes… that was on us.
Or, I guess I should say, on my brother.
Constipation Station, What’s Your Location?
See, the pipes were well and clogged. To unclog them would require not only the tank to be emptied but for the (ahem…) obstruction… to be forced out. In theory, emptying the tank should have done that as it would have provided the space. Unfortunately, it was like our plumbing system had constipation.
In order to relieve the blockage, one need only to find where the blockage was, disconnect the pipes at the nearest junction, and… poke at it. Like a house enema – Stone Age style.
Said pipes were under the trailer. We had a giant crawl space under there, but there were only two people who could fit.
Myself and my brother.
Now, if you know anything about me, if there’s one thing I’m absolutely terrified of, it’s clowns.
But crawl spaces are right up there! (Along with spiders and poop).
Thus, I absolutely refused to go under there. Sure, it was super cold (I think it was either late fall or late winter) so the chance of spiders was super low, but there was also a very high chance of poop.
And small spaces.
But mostly poop.
So down my brother went, armed only with courage and a stick.
Fine with me. That meant I wouldn’t have to do it.
Facing The Facts
I’m going to make a long story short. (Sure, I say that now, 500 words in).
The blockage was found. The pipe was disconnected. The stick was poked. And it all came out.
On my brother’s face.
Don’t get me wrong. In a sense I felt relieved that I didn’t have to deal with that. But when I saw him come out from under the trailer looking like a mud-covered circus performer (remember, I’m terrified of clowns) I felt absolutely horrible.
There’s two ways to look at the phrase “that could have been me”. There’s the “relief” version (which I already stated and initially felt). Then there’s the “remorse” version.
Looking at (and smelling) my little brother, which of the two versions do you think I felt in that moment?
But, hey, we could all poop like normal people again, right?
The Right Thing To Do
I’m fairly certain that I had experiences before this where I learned the importance of not asking others to do what you won’t do yourself. But if I did I can’t remember them. This one sticks very vividly in my mind because I still feel awful about it to this day.
I could have (should have) been the person to go down there. As the eldest child, (who, by the way, was actually smaller than his little brother), I really should have been willing to do the work and set an example. This isn’t about “manning up” or “being the hero” or looking for glory.
This is about just doing the right thing.
In particular, doing right by other people.
Now and then you’re going to be saddled with a responsibility, a job or a situation that require you to do things you just don’t want to do. When that happens, you don’t hand those responsibilities off to other people. Sure, if someone is more qualified that’s one thing – that would suggest a purpose. But making someone else do it just because you don’t want to? No.
You could also extend this idea to simply taking responsibility for your own behavior.
It’s really not that hard. Because it’s the right thing to do.
And when you know it’s the right thing to do, pride and fear go out the window.
You also learn a whole lot about yourself in the process. Specifically, the good that you’re actually capable of.
Do you recall a time where you delegated responsibility for something to someone else, when you should have handled it yourself? Do you recall a time where you simply did not want to do something, so you made someone else do it? How did that go? How did you feel afterward? Was there a time you did do something yourself (when you could have handed it to someone else), despite the fact that you really didn’t want to?