Do you ever wish the politicians in Washington would quit blaming each other and just do something? It is amazing how so much is wrong with our spending habits, our educational system, our infrastructure, etc., yet not one single politician seems to believe they personally have anything to do with it.

Every news program, editorial or political interview I watch is filled with politicians telling me the country is in real trouble, and reminding me it is everyone else’s fault but theirs.

Now this bothers me on so many levels. First, watching them blame the “other guy” reminds me of when we used to get in trouble as kids. Try that tactic with my mother and your punishment would be twice as severe. Second, it accomplishes nothing. Whine, complain, focus on the other person–okay, even if you are right, you still have the problem at the end of the day. Nothing moves and nothing changes. Third, in my book there is no such thing as an innocent bystander. If you recognize a problem, if you know something is not working, at that point you are responsible (no one else) to take action to make it better.

There is power in responsibility, and that power is in the knowledge of self-awareness, ownership and action. When you understand, inherently know, or feel something is wrong–if at that moment, you take it upon yourself to be responsible, things can change and things can improve. The power of responsibility is when we stop looking to others to make a difference, and we commit personally to make one.

I saw this power up close and personal last night. My husband and I were cooking dinner at a local homeless shelter. We worked with the most wonderful man, Bill, who besides being quite the culinary talent, was kind and patient with our less-than-average food preparation skills. As we were there a few hours, we all got to know each other quite well.

Bill was in charge of the kitchen, and had actually lived at the shelter for more than a year. He was a great source of knowledge about how things worked there, the stories of the people who came to the mission, and the impact the mission was having on helping people turn their lives around. He was also very up-front about his own life, the fact that he had gone down more than a few wrong paths. He shared his remorse that he’d done a stint in prison, missed most of his daughter’s young life, and brought pain into the lives of those he loved through his addiction to drugs and alcohol.

While his story was shocking, especially to my husband who had never been exposed to a situation like this, his courage was even more so. At no point did he begin to blame anyone else for where his life had gone. In fact, his stories were peppered with the language of the “choices” he had made, and the paths he had “chosen.” He took responsibility for his life, and through that responsibility he gained his life back.

He let go of ego, sought help and did whatever it took to turn things around. Today he is drug-free, has a job, bought a house and most importantly, has a relationship with his daughter. Things changed for him because he didn’t waste time blaming others, he owned the problem and he took action.

Responsibility is not something we “put” on ourselves, or something someone inflicts upon us, it is a first step to ensuring things are going to get better. Imagine what would happen if even a little of what Bill did took hold in Washington.