In my past lifetime – before I had kids and still slept through the night – I studied Nutrition. As part of my degree I interned for the Boulder County Women, Infants, Children (WIC) program. WIC is a wonderful resource providing nutrition education, healthcare referrals, and food for low income pregnant and nursing women, and children through the age of five. As an intern I measured and weighed kiddos, pricking their little fingers to test for iron levels. I counseled mothers and held babies. The work was a gift, educating me on the needs of the local community as well as how to feed my own babies.
One of the great lessons that helped me immensely was the “Division of Responsibility.” Registered Dietitian and expert in child nutrition, Ellyn Satter, coined the term. She stated it’s the parent’s job to determine the where, what, and when of feeding and the child’s job to determine how much and whether they will eat.
It’s safe to say that all of us who eat and/or have raised humans that eat know the power struggles that can ensue at mealtime. This Division of Responsibility was crucial for me while significantly minimizing the thrown food during high chair temper tantrums.
The 2016 election left me reeling. I consumed news like I was starved. While trying to make sense of what just happened, I couldn’t make sense of anything. The people I thought I knew felt foreign, like overnight strangers.
I was not well. My daily diet of news and information and social media was not helping me, nor was it good for my family.
But what to do? I wanted to stay informed. I wanted to be a good citizen. I wanted to enact change where possible. But my media consumption was making me sicker by the day.
I knew there had to be a better way and I wrestled with what my job was. I couldn’t figure it out. I felt powerless.
Then one day, it hit me – the answer is the Division of Responsibility. The same way I fed my kids was the same way to feed and care for myself.
Within my job description as a United States Citizen, I had the power to contact my representatives. I had an opportunity to testify at the state government and I attended city-wide meetings on gun violence and immigration and LGBTQ+ rights. I protested and marched and voted. I’ve discovered and led groups on my privilege and racism. And I remain active where possible and necessary.
These are my jobs. And I will continue to do them.
My elected representatives, on the other hand, it’s their job to act on my behalf. We are paying them, this is their responsibility. While I obviously don’t agree with all of them, all the time, I want to support and challenge and encourage as needed and vote them out, if needed.
Our power lies within our agency.
However, this is all well and good until we have difficult weeks. Weeks that threaten the rights and safety of people we love because of foreign disputes. Weeks where the truth feels distant, a political nuisance, a far cry from what we once knew. And during these weeks, I succumb to fear. I feel immobile and powerless. Darkness appears to be winning.
The Division of Responsibility feels privileged and naive, weak.
What do we do when this happens? What power can we claim?
We humans have far more agency than we realize. We get to bring light into the darkness. We get to harness the powers of love, and prayer, and joy, and peacemaking. This is our greatest and most essential work. It begins with ourselves and it radiates into our worlds. Hugging our people, calling our people, resting with our people, surrounding our people, lamenting with our people, laughing with our people.
This is the work of community. This is the work of Love.
Love ALWAYS wins!
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5)