Some lessons are just too tidy to ignore. If, that is, you can call a pile of poop a tidy lesson. Here's what happened:

I was feeling accomplished. I had just finished a writing project and sent it off before the deadline, and then written a topical blog post and most of a devotional one. I had done a short workout and taken a quick shower without losing my cool at the howling baby who hates it when I take a shower. I had fed the toddler lunch, changed and fed the baby about forty-six times, sent out party invitations, mailed out applications, planned dinner, found a sun hat for the baby, dug up an old beach umbrella so our pasty New England wouldn't get burned, and headed outside to fulfill a promise to tell the Three Bears, which I did with animation and motherly affection.

Having gotten all these wonderful tasks squared away before it was time to leave for the afternoon errands, I succumbed to the temptation of lazy people who do lots of work in short, concentrated bursts: I got huffy. My justified self-praise turned into a whiny self-righteousness, and my sense of accomplishment turned into a sense of martyrdom, as I looked around for yet more jobs that needed doing by wonderful, hard-working me.

Sure enough, there were socks and sneakers strewn all over the yard. There were coffee cups and sippy cups scattered about the swing set. Old paint cans from an unfinished project rolled around under the stairs, a waterlogged picture book flapped in the breeze, and someone had used my double boiler as a water bowl for the dog.

The dog. Ugh. Deep down, I love him, but not so much when I'm trying to get things done. Like right now, for instance, when I can't even walk around my own yard with my own baby, just trying to get a little cleaning done, without being followed by this huge, hairy, slobbery --- POOP.

Oh, man, this dog can poop. And not off to the side in his pooping spot, but right there in the middle of the yard -- where my children come and play with their toys! Hey, you'd turn into Michael Corleone too, if you saw just how much poop we're talking about here.

Any normal person, when faced with a heap of excrement like this, would go get the shovel and clean it up. Maybe they wouldn't be happy about it, but they would clean it up, because it is a pile of dog poop in the middle of the yard. Instead, I started listing all the things I had already gotten done that day, all the things I was still going to do, and I said, "No! It's not my job! I had enough things that are my job. Not gonna do it. Not. My. Job."

At this point, a tiny voice in the back of my head said, "Yeah, but everyone else in this family is pretty darn busy, too. Really, you're just going to leave it there on a techincality? You couldn't just take two minutes and get rid of it, really?"

I shouted that tiny voice down. "No! I am busy, hear me roar! How much poop, literal and figurative, can one woman be expected to deal with in a day? No, sir! That poop can just stay there until someone else comes home and takes care of it. I have plenty of jobs, but this is not my job!"

Then I went inside to change the toddler's diaper, which IS my job. And guess what? When she lay down to get cleaned up, I saw that her shoes were covered in, guess what, dog poop. We have an acre and a quarter of land, but she had managed to tromp right through the only square foot that had poop on it. And then she walked up the stairs, down the hall, into my bedroom, on my treadmill, and THEN into the room where I was changing her diaper, which, as I've mentioned, was my job. Just what I needed, on top of everything else! I was THIS CLOSE to going off on part two of my Endless Woe of the Put-Upon Housewife rant, when suddenly . . .

I got the joke. I didn't want to do something that wasn't my job. Fair enough.  And what happened as a direct result? My job got about 500% harder and more foul. And more wide ranging (on the treadmill!!! Oh, kill me now).

So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. If you only do the things that your little world absolutely obligates you to do, you may find your little world getting all crapped up with unpleasantness that didn't start out as yours, but it sure is yours now.  I hope this story is edifying for you, whether you're working out your role in a household, or doing your part for a team at an office, or crafting some policies that don't directly benefit you, or praying for someone who isn't even in your life, or donating money to a disaster relief program halfway around the world, or just doing what an adult does: taking care of things that aren't your job. Recall the words of Jacob Marley: mankind was my business! Sometimes, you gotta take care of stuff that isn't in the contract.

Yes, there are occasions where you have to put your foot down. Sometimes you have to tell people to clean up their own messes and stop depending on you to take care of their poop, literal or figurative. But for most of us, most of the time, it really is best just to grab a shovel, clean it up, and move along. Not your job? Oh, well! Night cometh, when no man can clean up poop.  So maybe just get as much as possible done now, before the master returns. Otherwise, when you put your foot down, you may not like where it lands.