Alice Walker included this poem in her novel Temple of My Familiar. She speaks to the challenge we face when we wait for others to do what needs to be done. They, in turn, wait for us to what needs to be done. It is a vicious, not virtuous circle.
In living and leading, the and others call each of us to be mindful and attentive to the world and people. My first language is French. I am not very fluent as an adult, but how the language is used seems imprinted on me. Being mindful and attentive is living and leading in proper relationships.
I recall my mother saying “ce n’est pas propre.” It is not proper and not right (vrai) or correct (correcte). Proper is a way of comporting one’s self and is an ethical position. When I hear politicians and pseudo-politicans say they followed the letter of the law, that is about being right and correct, not proper.
Aristotle spoke about praxis as an ethical practice in living one’s life. Goodness in this sense was the goal of living without knowing what that meant. When I wait for another to do the proper thing, I am not doing the proper thing.
To the extent that it is possible,
You must live in the world today
As you wish everyone to live
In the world to come.
That can be your contribution.
Otherwise, the world you want
Will never be formed. Why?
Because you’re waiting for others to do
What you’re not doing;
And they are waiting for you,
And so on.