A Covenant for Common People (You and Me)

Bishop’s Mantle column by Jim Bishop

I’m an inveterate list-maker. Preparing a weekly “to do” list first thing Monday morning increases the odds of my remembering and actually completing important tasks – at work, home and elsewhere.

Some items are one-time chores; others are recurring duties and responsibilities that can too easily be neglected or overlooked. All well and good, I tell myself, but how about compiling a more comprehensive inventory of activities that may even take the rest of my life to complete?

Here are some modest proposals for the common man (and woman) that, if each of us adopted, just might contribute to a more enjoyable and hopeful world:

– I will cultivate a good habit and work to eliminate a bad one by the end of the calendar year.

– I will strive to offer at lest one written or verbal affirmation to someone else at least once a week. I will call, write or e-mail a family member or friend living at a distance at least once a month.

– I will recognize and uphold the rights of all children. I will acknowledge their presence, stop and talk to (not talk down to) and listen to them regularly. If I have children, I will shower them with such basic entitlements as love, self-worth, respect, praise and confidence. When discipline is needed, it will be meted out with consistency, mercy and fairness.

– I will consciously smile more, frown less, look for the good qualities in others, chew gum with my mouth closed, abide by posted speed limits and always buckle up.

– I will worship regularly, contribute to and participate actively in a denomination and congregation of my choice.

– As a responsible citizen of this fragile planet, I will engage in sound ecological practices, i.e., purchase from ecology-minded businesses, recycle containers, take short showers, repair leaky faucets and install water-saving devices and put litter in its place.

– I will strive to live within my economic means, use credit sparingly, be generous in responding to worthy charitable charitable causes and not envy others’ financial status.

– For every hour spent watching television, I will devote an equal amount of time to mental (reading, especially educational and/or devotional materials) and physical activity such as brisk walking or jogging.

– I will be on time for work, appointments, committee meetings and other gatherings, barring emergencies or other circumstances. To help achieve this, I will keep a daily or weekly calendar as well as go to bed or get up 10-15 minutes earlier if necessary.

– I will take care of this mortal frame not only through regular exercise and sensible eating habits, but also by regular medical checkups and dental and eye exams.

– If physically able, I will donate blood regularly, use stairs instead of elevators and walk or ride bike to close destinations instead of driving.

– I will review and, if needed, update my will, create a power of attorney and make certain my executor knows where my valuable documents are located.

– As much as humanly possible, I will aim to live at peace with myself and those around me.

– I will take time to expand a current interest or hobby or to learn something completely new, to take advantage of local opportunities for cultural enrichment and to get involved in a community service project.

– I will channel my wrath into constructive channels and not go to bed angry.

– No matter how full my schedule, I will take time to stop and watch the sunrise or sunset.

– I will work at enhancing my self-image, neither putting myself down nor thinking more highly of myself than I ought.

What do you think? Too demanding, exacting, legalistic?

Face it, I can’t expect anyone else to embrace such goals if I’m unwilling to tackle these commitments myself.

Anyone else ready to sign?

Jim Bishop is the public-information officer at Eastern Mennonite University.

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