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I am wondering, ‘Where does the buck stop these days?’

NIAGARA, Wis. — I watched “CBS Sunday Morning” this past week, as is the custom in our house.

John Dickerson’s closing commentary had to do with the phrase, “The buck stops here.” He traced the origins of that phrase as well as the metamorphoses of its meaning throughout history.

He ended with a statement of how each voter’s interpretation of that phrase will determine the outcome of this most historic election.

The phrase originated as a poker term back in the days of the Wild West.

A knife with a buckhorn handle was passed to the player whose turn it was to deal the cards.

If that player did not want to deal, he was allowed to pass the knife to the next player at the table — thus “passing the buck.”

The actual phrase was a favorite of President Harry Truman’s.

It had been given to him by a friend as an engraved desk plaque; that friend had originally seen it as a placard on the office door of a prison warden.

Truman believed that it helped to explain how difficult the job of President was and that no one had the right to play “Monday morning quarterback” when it came to presidential decisions.

It is, after all, very easy to say what the coach should have done after the game is over.

But in the moment — whether coach or President — a decision has to be made given the facts at hand, and it is the duty of the one in charge to make the decision.

But it also implies that no one has a crystal ball and cannot foretell the consequences of any decision that is made.

Dickerson went on to say that in modern times, the meaning of the phrase has taken on a stricter interpretation.

People are more prone to hold the president fully accountable for the decisions that he makes — or fails to make — during his term in office.

After all, as President Barack Obama acknowledged, every issue that reaches the desk of the president is a dire situation or it would not have advanced all the way to his desk in the first place.

And it requires due deliberation and a thoughtful decision because it bears grave consequences when wrong choices are made.

Dickerson ended his commentary by saying that we expect no excuses and demand only results from our modern-day presidents. So, he said, as we cast our votes in this upcoming election, “each American will decide if their vote is a reward for excellence or a trophy for participation.”

Dickerson’s editorial made me pause and think about my own views of responsibility.

As I have shared in previous columns, I grew up the oldest of four children in a single parent home so taking responsibility was simply a given.

I was the “second mom” of our family; sometimes I enjoyed that position and sometimes I resented it.

But, I had no choice.

Someone had to keep order and “control the troops” in my mother’s absence, and that person was me.

I was next in line.

I also babysat a lot for other people’s children and bore the responsibility for following the rules of that household and keeping someone else’s children safe and happy until their parents returned.

All of us in my family grew up understanding that we all had our own set of responsibilities.

There was a code of conduct my mother demanded from us.

We were all expected to be responsible for getting good grades at school and being respectful of our teachers or any adult.

Profanity was not allowed.

We were to watch out for each other and to stay out of any trouble.

The biggest lesson of all, I think, was that we were held accountable for our own actions.

I can remember to this day how my mother would challenge us whenever we wanted to do something she did not want us to do. As we begged and teased for permission, saying that “Mary was allowed to do it, so why can’t I?” my mother’s standard response was, “Well, if Mary ran and jumped off a cliff, would you do that, too?”

And she would always remind us that every time we pointed our finger in blame of someone else, four fingers remained pointed back at us.

Yes, that is strict, but we learned the importance of taking responsibility for the results of our own actions.

And we were taught that every action had a consequence, so we learned the value of choosing wisely.

We learned to think before we took action.

Those lessons learned as children made us responsible adults.

We grew up valuing education and educated people.

When we did not know something, we trusted the education of others and valued their knowledge. And when we became parents with children of our own, we passed along those lessons to them.

We were not always the “fun parents” and had a bit of a strict reputation in the neighborhood.

But our kids have grown up to become responsible adults capable of making informed decisions and helping their children to do the same.

Somewhere along the way, something has shifted in our culture.

And I don’t think it is just because I am now, technically, an elderly person and a full-fledged member of the “older generation.”

I find myself wondering who is taking responsibility for anything these days?

Who is making those tough decisions?

Where, indeed, does that buck stop?

Pollution continues to choke our waters and the air we all breathe while politicians lobby to cut back on the very regulations that attempt to curtail corporations from endangering our environment.

Quite frankly, in a perfect world, we would not even need such regulations because corporate executives would have a conscience that would not allow them to pollute our environment in the first place.

And climate change continues unchecked while our drought-stricken western forests become tinder for fires that destroy lives as hurricanes pummel coastlines and threaten the very existence of our waterfront communities.

A global pandemic rages, killing millions, and we cannot even take responsibility to wear a simple face mask!

And the hideous stain of racism continues to disenfranchise an entire population who deserves respect and equal opportunity.

I just do not understand the world today.

I do not believe that things will change until we all see ourselves as bearing responsibility — for both the problems in our world and for their solutions.

We all need to become better stewards of our environment.

We all need to watch out for our neighbors by wearing a mask against the spread of COVID-19.

We all need to take responsibility to stay informed, believe the science, and respect the knowledge of people who are smarter than we are.

We all need to better understand our neighbors of color and work toward safer communities for all.

None of us can afford to throw up our hands in resignation of a world gone crazy.

So, in answer to the question posed in the title to this column today, the buck stops with me … with you … with each of us to step up and own our responsibilities.

Take the necessary steps to build back a better world … a world that is a real gift to our grandchildren and generations to come.

There is no time to waste.

There is no better time than now to do what is right … to act beyond our own, selfish desires… to continue to fulfill the promise that is America.

——

NURSING HOMES

The usual senior living activity calendars and senior center menus are not being published to avoid confusion. Due to the coronavirus and the vulnerability of the elderly population, daily life in the senior living facilities and senior centers has changed dramatically.

All living facilities have closed their doors to public visitation, and the activity calendars have been modified to allow for one-to-one room visits only and individualized activities to keep residents engaged and active as much as possible while remaining within the health and safety guidelines provided by state health experts.

Group games are being substituted with individualized activities residents can do in their respective rooms. Staff are providing supplies as well as “overhead announcement bingo and trivia” games and “hallway games” that can be played in individual rooms or by sitting within individual room doorways.

YouTube and DVDs are being utilized to provide religious services. A big dose of gratitude and appreciation goes out to all senior care staff for their creativity, caring and perseverance through a difficult situation.

All senior centers also have been closed to any center-based activity. Until they re-open, no information is being published that talks about activities typically available at these centers. While some have reopened with limited seating, meals do continue to be delivered.

Some centers also are preparing meals to be picked up. Menus are printed below for those centers who are either preparing takeout or providing home-delivered meals. Questions can be directed to the individual centers at the numbers listed below.

SENIOR CENTERS

Alpha-Mastodon Center

906-875-3315

Amasa Center

906-822-7284

The Amasa Center is a curbside pick-up-only kitchen for now. Call ahead for Tuesdays through Thursdays. Menu for the week —

Tuesday: Chop suey, rice, Oriental vegetables and lettuce.

Wednesday: Meatloaf, baked potatoes, peas and carrot coins.

Thursday: Beef stew, bean salad and dinner roll.

Breen Center

906-774-5110

Now open with limited seating from noon to 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Menu for the week —

Monday: Spaghetti, meat sauce, garlic bread and green beans.

Tuesday: Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes, gravy and carrots.

Wednesday: Baked chicken, mashed potatoes and California vegetable blend.

Thursday: Baked fish, parsley potatoes and peas.

Crystal Falls Center

Head cook: Lucy Korhonen

906-875-6709

Crystal Lake Center

Iron Mountain

906-239-0278

Home-delivered meals only. Menu for the week —

Monday: Smothered chicken, mashed potatoes and winter blend vegetables.

Tuesday: Tuna casserole, peas and biscuit.

Wednesday: Chicken quesadilla soup, cornbread and side salad.

Thursday: Taco salad, sour cream, salsa and chips.

Friday: Fish sticks, tater tots and mixed vegetables.

For more information, call Christine McMahon at 906-774-2256

Felch Center

906-246-3559

Now open with limited seating from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. Menu for the week —

Monday: Chili, grilled cheese sandwich and apples.

Tuesday: Barbecue pork sandwich, chips and coleslaw.

Wednesday: Polish sausage, sauerkraut and mashed potatoes.

Aging and Disability Resource Center of Florence County, Wis.

715-528-4890

Director: Tiffany White

Home-delivered meals only. Menu for the week —

Monday: Cook’s choice — entrée, vegetable and fruit.

Tuesday: Chicken salad on a croissant with lettuce and tomato, broccoli salad and fruit.

Wednesday: Waikiki meatballs over rice, Oriental vegetables, fruit and birthday cake.

Thursday: Pasty, coleslaw, fruit and cookies.

Friday: Tater tot casserole with lettuce, tomato and onion, cucumbers in sour cream and Mandarin oranges.

Fence Center/Town Hall

715-336-2980

For meal reservations, call 855-528-2372

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Florence Community Center/Town Hall

For meal reservations, call 715-528-4261

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Tipler Town Hall

For meal reservations, call 715-674-2320

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Hillcrest Senior Dining Center, Aurora

For meal reservations, call 715-589-4491

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Hermansville Center

Coordinator: Pam Haluska

906-498-7735

Iron River Center

906-265-6134

Now open with limited seating 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. Home-delivered and/or takeout only on Thursdays. Menu for week —

Monday: Barbecue pulled pork sandwich, potato wedges, cauliflower, fruit and milk.

Tuesday: Fish, macaroni and cheese, green beans, fruit and milk.

Wednesday: Turkey wrap, chips, fruit and milk.

Thursday: Lasagna, California vegetables, garlic bread, fruit and milk.

Niagara Northwoods Senior Cafe and Center

Meal site manager: Corrie Maule, 715-251-1603

Senior center director: Jill Anderson, 715-251- 4154

Norway Center

Director: Susie Slining

906-563-8716

The center will remain closed; however, takeout meals will be prepared for pick up – those picking up must call ahead and wear a mask. Menu for the week —

Monday: Spaghetti or polenta, broccoli, garlic bread, fruit, juice and dessert.

Tuesday: Roast beef over bread, red potatoes, peas and carrots, fruit, juice and dessert.

Wednesday: Noon — Baked cod, scalloped potatoes, spinach, fruit, juice and dessert; 5 p.m.– Barbecue rib dinner.

Thursday: Chicken-bacon alfredo over noodles, green beans, biscuit, fruit, juice and dessert.

Sagola Center

906-542-3273

Now open with limited seating from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. Menu for the week —

Tuesday: Chili, corn bread, corn

Wednesday: Turkey and ham wrap, potato chips and three bean salad.

Thursday: Cheese ravioli, mixed vegetables, garlic toast and salad.

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