What we do when no one is watching

President Bush likes to lecture about personal responsibility. He should come to Southwest Minneapolis.

President Bush says we are entering an era of renewed personal responsibility. I've been saying much the same thing, actually -- to friends and selected strangers.

With the message coming from both poles of credibility and pulpit size, there must be something to it.

My reasoning - and I assume the President's - is that we live in a time of terrorists and ruthless international drug lords with the means to murder millions and rend the fabric of society; the only slender hope is for as many of us as possible to live quietly noble lives. We must have faith -- faith that decency will overwhelm The Enemy.

Unfortunately, neither of us can say absolutely for sure that across the nation -- or across the Kenny neighborhood -- people are in fact doing the little things right, making morally correct decisions in even the smallest of circumstances when no one is watching.

Recently, President Bush has taken the bull by the horns; beyond proclaiming the Age of Responsibility, he's actually trying to nudge it along. He's addressed his own circle of acquaintances, unambiguously advising them against lying about their corporations and destroying their employees' lives and undermining faith in our economy and the rule of law.

Naturally, I would like to offer the same advice-giving to my own friends, my familiars, the people I see every day in Southwest Minneapolis… even if I don't precisely see myself as "the leader" around here.

The trouble is, the President's got it much easier than me when it comes to giving advice; he knows a lot of people who really could use some. The things they do when no one is watching are huge. And they seem to have a hard time controlling themselves.

Me, I look around Southwest, and I frankly don't see the same kind of scandalous behavior in my neighbors and peers.

Sure, there's room for improvement here and there. A patchy lawn, a hanging shutter, crumbling steps, little piles of trash (although, to be honest, when I look beyond my own house and yard, the situation improves markedly).

Directly across the street there is a very, very nice woman, and in all the many hours I've sat here on my stoop watching her - this is no secret, by the way, she watches me too; we wave at each other - I have not observed a single flaw. She lives by all appearances such an admirable life that it almost makes me suspicious.

And she was living like that before 9/11, which I think is when this era started. It's not like she was sliding along, drinking her way through the hazy days, never getting out of her housecoat or something. No. She's always been honorable, as far as I can tell.

And it's much the same story wherever I look: Well-intentioned, energetic, largely successful lives.

So, what am I saying -- keep it up, Southwest Minneapolis? Keep weeding the gardens, driving 32 mph on 50th Street, not over-indulging on the free samples at Great Harvest Bakery on Saturdays (a personal foible), choosing siding contactors wisely, scooping the litter regularly, dealing with problems as they arise and welcoming challenges openly?

Yes. And if it gets difficult, just remember Torii's Catch.

Remember the ridiculous attempt, the absurd success, and the sweet, sweet happy look on young Torii Hunter's face as he trotted toward the dugout in the All-Star Game. Draw from the same joy, day by day, task by task, and have faith that if we all jump together we can, like Torii, against the odds, pull this one back over the wall.

Oh -- if any of you are lying about your company's revenue and preparing to raid pension funds for your own enrichment: Stop it! Now!