Sunday, April 07, 2013

Of Rights and Responsibilities

I've been thinking a lot, particularly as I drive, about the etymology of the word stewardship. I have been mulling over the history of the word as well as what it means to be a steward in this day and age.

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My older etiquette books (cira 1840's) refer to a steward as the head caretaker of an estate. They had the right and responsibility to manage it, and do it well. A steward was involved in all matters of the estate, from accounting for possessions to making sure the land was managed well and was productive. A steward was one of the most important hires a family could make, and to have a good steward was to have a successfully run estate. 

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As time moved forward to train, then ship, then air travel the word steward began to refer to someone who was responsible for you, the traveler. They would take care of your baggage, your cabin, and attend to your needs. 

Today we no longer have stewards and stewardesses out and about. We refer to the helpful (and sometimes cranky...but mostly helpful!) people on airplanes as flight attendants. I haven't traveled long distances by large boat, though, and there may be a person aboard who is a steward. 

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Bearing that in mind - I am my own steward. I hold stewardship over all of the the experiences, things, and people I have the fortune or misfortune to come to know. I hold the responsibility for how well my limited estate runs. 

I don't believe that you ever truly own anything. Everything is simply on loan to you - it has been given with the intent that you may use it to serve your purpose but you must take care of it, demonstrate your stewardship of what you have. I feel as if I can take care of what I'm given now - from my career to my relationships to the objects in my house - I will be better prepared to handle the large things later. 

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Here are some small ways I show stewardship:
- I buy the best quality I can afford and maintain it -  I save to buy one pair of leather boots I can wear for years instead of four pairs of plastic ones I can wear for three months, I  mend any repairs needed in clothing once every few weeks, wash it carefully and properly, quickly wipe down appliances when I'm done using them, rinse out my makeup brushes once a week, keep the inside and outside of my car clean.
- I keep in touch with the people who I value, regardless of what gain they bring to my life - I write letters, call, text, send out a semi-monthly family newsletter, meet for coffee
- I stay on top of my finances - My income is limited as a teacher but I know how to shuffle the money I do make into the places that count - Savings (both long term and for things I want in the near future) first, paying down student loans second, bills third, and everything else last. 
- I focus on the long term - This is a tough one. I, like anyone else, enjoy a bit of instant gratification. If I see it, I want to buy it right away. I want things now - a better paying job, a sailboat, a nicer car, travel, moving abroad. I know, however, that life doesn't work that way for most people. You have to build your life, build your estate, manage it well, work hard at it, and things will happen. A few people get lucky and things just happen - the rest of us, though? We have to build it ourselves. It's not a bad thing, though. It teaches perseverance. 

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How do you show stewardship in your life?

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Scarf: Unknown (similar here)
Earrings: Unknown (similar here)
Jacket: Barbour
Shirt: Urban Outfitters (can't find a comparable shirt, sorry!)
Skirt: Self Made
Boots: Frye 


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