Oct 25

Stewardship -the responsible overseeing and protection of something considered worth caring for and preserving

Everywhere I hear and see finger pointing about who is responsible for this problem or that problem – global warming, the economy, loss of the moral compass, hunger, poverty. You name it, everyone is looking for someone or something to blame.

As I think about it I see a loss of stewardship across the board. I wonder how many people even understand the basic meaning of the word today? Rather than arguing about who is responsible and fighting over the pieces of the pie wouldn’t it be better if we each stopped to think about ourselves as stewards and began to act in ways that are consistent with being a good steward?

Regardless of politics – conservative or liberal
Regardless of religion – Christian, Atheist, Muslim, etc
Regardless of race- black, white, Hispanic, Asian, etc.
Regardless of all that divides us…….
We share the human condition.


Shouldn’t we all be considering what kind of stewards we are of those things worth caring for and preserving? Can we not agree that our planet is worth caring for and preserving? I think we can. Then shouldn’t we consider with each of our actions how we are impacting our planet? Is there not a moral and ethical right and wrong when it comes to caring for living things? Our planet, as a whole, is a living thing. It is a system so complex that we only scratch the surface with our science of how the delicate balance is preserved. We seek to bend it to our will and enterprise often without thought of the delicate balance of the system. Enterprise is important, critical, to our existence but enterprise without thought of its impact lacks the element of good stewardship. Our haste often drives us forward without thought of stewardship until it is too late. Why can’t we have both?

In the book Cradle to Cradle, “the authors argue that the conflict between industry and the environment is not an indictment of commerce but an outgrowth of purely opportunistic design. The design of products and manufacturing systems growing out of the Industrial Revolution reflected the spirit of the day-and yielded a host of unintended yet tragic consequences.

Today, with our growing knowledge of the living earth, design can reflect a new spirit. In fact, the authors write, when designers employ the intelligence of natural systems—the effectiveness of nutrient cycling, the abundance of the sun’s energy—they can create products, industrial systems, buildings, even regional plans that allow nature and commerce to fruitfully co-exist.”

We have the knowledge and ability today to move forward with a new paradigm of stewardship in our enterprise as it relates to our planet.

On business and the OWS movement, should we not be asking ourselves what our own responsibility is this debacle? Yes, Wall Street overreached. Government forced them in some ways to overreach with regulations requiring them to loan money to sub-prime borrowers. This is rarely discussed by the masses. We, as consumers, also overreached. We borrowed money we couldn’t afford to pay back because exotic financing made it possible for us to fool ourselves. We signed on dotted lines of agreements never read or understood. What percentage of Americans do you think actually read and understood their mortgage documents fully? None of us lacks some responsibility for this failure of stewardship, except the young who are coming along in the wake of our mess. I respect their indignation at the mess we’ve left them. We cry out about the injustice but our own voracious appetites got us here. Banks loaned because we were willing to sign up and borrow.

From Wall Street to Main Street we are all responsible – for the purchases we make and where we make them (constantly seeking cheaper and cheaper product without regard to where and how it is produced), quick and easy (fast food, cheap food regardless of how it is produced or what’s in it), for seeking more, bigger, faster, cheaper (rather than simplicity and durability). Our power is in our purse and the choices we make. If we act as good stewards in the choices we make through what we consume or don’t consume, we send a message that creates change.


What about the stewardship of our children in our parenting and teaching? We continue to have a system of education that teaches our children to memorize facts. It robs them of their creativity either through forcing blind conformity to the “norm”, teaching in a manner consistent with the old industrialized world, and reducing or eliminating the creative arts that allow the mind to imagine/dream/create. In history class they learn “facts” with little or no discussion of the moral and ethical dilemma’s of leadership or the consequences of poor choices. History is all about complex issues, good and bad outcomes and the impacts of leadership or the lack thereof. Shouldn’t all history be discussed only in the context of the complexities of leadership, impact and decision making rather than as vacant sets of facts to be stored in the memory bank.

In the impressionable years of elementary school there is no discussion of logic, morals, ethics, or philosophy. Schools veer from these subjects as though avoiding the plague out of some misplaced thought that teaching anything of morals or ethics might somehow be associated with religion. Phooey.

Our teachers are no longer provided the authority to maintain discipline for fear of lawsuits. Parents abdicate their responsibilities when children fail or fall behind. Teachers cannot raise our children to be good citizens alone within the context of the current educational structure. The Harvard Family Research Project indicate that parental involvement is associated with higher student achievement outcomes.

This is really a no-brainer. Being a good parent means being a good steward of the life that we brought forth into the world. With that stewardship comes responsibility for nurturing, teaching, disciplining and bringing up children who will be responsible stewards of themselves and the world we are handing them. “You must be present to win”. Without our presence as parents, we rob our children of our knowledge and experience failing to be there to identify the “teachable moments”. This happens today for myriad reasons – the dual working parent household, the single parent household, the affluent household – everybody’s got their “reason” why they aren’t fully present. I am just as guilty from time to time because I am clicking away on this computer missing out on the conversation. We have to STOP and remember that we ARE the stewards of the future through our children. We have to be present, engage, teach, parent. Every action we undertake should be mindful of this awesome responsibility. We must rethink the education of our children – what are we telling them and showing them in terms of what is important. In a world where the marriage of creativity and technology will build our future shouldn’t these be the priorities of our educational system? In an increasingly challenging and competitive world, shouldn’t we be teaching our children sacrifice, hard work, patience and delayed gratification? In a world where the issues are complex, requiring a “true north” compass for informed citizenship shouldn’t we be emphasizing above all else the ability to think critically within a moral and ethical framework?

What can I say here? Governments around the world are failing their citizenry. Our governments have not been good stewards for many years and we have allowed it. Now we are paying the price. We know in our own fiscal houses that we can’t spend more than we make for very long or we will be bankrupt. How can this basic financial logic have escaped our political leadership? It’s because our leaders are no longer leaders. They follow the whimsy of the political poll and pander to a public rather than leading. They give away this and that to appease their various interest groups – corporate interests, public and private unions, economic factions of rich and poor, based on keeping their voter bases in tact rather than on what is appropriate stewardship of the country.

The definition of a leader is someone who “directs or guides a group”, not one that follows the whims of the polls. Our politicians are political gamesmen and pander for cash to preserve their jobs. Politics was not supposed to be a “career” it was supposed to be a “service”. A service in which ordinary citizens participate, not a elite political class.

Harry Truman said it well, “I learned that a great leader is a man who has the ability to get other people to do what they don’t want to do and like it”. We don’t have leaders anymore. The reasons are many – too much money in politics, the buying of influence, self-interest from both parties, media and party muck raking fueled by the party machines, etc. Somewhere among us there must be one selfless steward who can understand the complexity of our situation, forge a coherent response, and explain it the the people. He/she could lead us forward to the new horizon and a new political reality, if we push hard enough to make it happen.

Where do we begin to move forward from this mess? We must take the first step, by taking responsibility for ourselves. By becoming the stewards that we need. By asking ourselves when we vote – is this person a good leader? a steward? or a gamesman? By being an informed consumer in local government – when you vote understand the positions of those running for city council, school board, mayor. Don’t just vote for the “party”, vote for the issues, the person and find real stewards in your choices. If you can’t find them then think about stepping forward to make the change yourself by running for office. Read, learn, educate yourself on the issues – not just your opinions but the opinions of those that disagree with you. Failing to understand the opposing position is a failure of stewardship because it is a failure to fully comprehend the problem.

Step forward and be a STEWARD – of the planet, of your children, in government, in the community, in your business, in your church, in clubs, in our schools. Stop ignoring the problem or just complaining. Be a part of the solution.

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