By Joe Rector

Too many students fail to complete assigned work. Heck, some of them don’t even take notes on information given either orally or written, even though they receive a grade for doing so. It’s enough to make any teacher’s blood boil. The bottom line is not enough young people are being held accountable for their actions or inactions. The key word is “responsibility.” I learned this quality early in life, and it’s stuck with me, for the most part, throughout the years. The lessons were usually hard ones, but they impressed upon me the importance of the personal characteristic.

On Saturdays when my brothers and I were young, Mother required us to clean the house. Each of us had rooms that we were to take care of. The work included vacuuming, dusting, and scrubbing.

We began the day with a big breakfast. Mother made pancakes or waffles and bacon. Afterwards, we waddled back to the television set to watch cartoons or, as we grew older, “American Bandstand.” Bellies full of carbs and sugar made us sleepy and lazy. That lasted for only so long.

Mother would call through the house for us to get busy cleaning. It wasn’t as if she were sitting around; a full list of jobs awaited her as well. We boys yelled back, “OK,” but our acknowledgements weren’t followed by any movements.

Before long, my dear mother lost patience with us. She would come to the den, stick out a crooked index finger, and warn us that beginning the cleaning would be in our best interest. The term “or else” was enough to send three boys scurrying.

On one occasion, we ignored Mother’s request so long that she chucked a container of Vaseline from one end of the hallway to the door that led to the basement. Realizing how much that object would have hurt if it had made contact, we boys jumped to attention and got busy.

The summer before my senior year, I was involved in an auto accident. A car nearly ran me into a ditch, so I decided to chase him. I pulled into a driveway, looked both ways, and pulled out into the road. A sheriff’s deputy was chasing the car, but he had no lights or siren on. He hit the back fender of the car and found himself in the same ditch I’d nearly been run into. I took responsibility for the accident, but the sheriff’s investigation determined that the officer was, instead, at fault. I shouldn’t have tried to chase down the other car in the first place.

As teens, Jim and I needed to work to earn spending money and savings. Our first jobs were at the Copper Kettle. There we worked serving curb-side orders. The work wasn’t too difficult, but the hours were brutal. We worked until 11:00 p.m. and then cleaned the curb and serving area until midnight. Our next job was with the City of Knoxville. A group of teenaged boys were hired to cut weeds on rights-of-ways, clean alleys, and pick up garbage. Other jobs included working at Burger King and at the UT farms.

At the end of the summers, we had saved enough money to use for activities and other things throughout the year. We gained a sense of pride from working; neither of us ever wanted to ask Mother for money since she had so very little of it to spare. To this day, Jim and I stay busy at some kind of work, and we still believe in working hard for the money that we earn.

I hope that the youth of today learn the same kind of responsibility. No, my brother and I aren’t special. Many of our friends learned the meaning of responsibility during those early years. We appreciate the lessons. Amy and I instilled the same quality in our children, and they have proven to be responsible adults. That statement would make any parent proud.