" In life you need many more things besides talent.
Things like good advice and common sense. "
HACK WILSON, American baseball player
Earlier in the week, a long forgotten draft drifted to the top of the pile and beckoned to me: 'You should finish this'. It was a tiny list where I had jotted down some lines of advice I have taken to heart over the years. Simple thoughts mostly, some with startling insight and others that crept in so quietly, it wasn't until much later that I saw how they'd coloured and shaped my life.
Today, I delight in completing that old draft... and in sharing with you these few words that have become special to me.
" Never worry about numbers.
Help one person at a time and always
start with the person nearest you. "
When I looked around, the needs of the world overwhelmed me. I longed to help—I've always wanted to help, but I'm just a little person in a great big world. Then one day, years ago now, I read this quote attributed to Mother Teresa, and I was encouraged no end. I used to imagine how overwhelmed she must have felt some days, facing the heartbreaking poverty of millions in Calcutta where she had worked. In that light, her sage advice was all the more meaningful. To this day, when I feel the burden of so many needs and not knowing where to begin or who to help, I come back to her words: one person at a time, the one nearest me.
"...with vitality and good humour. "
My sister once told me that she'd read an interesting comment Julia Child made about her mother. How she saw her as a positive person and ran her household with vitality and good humour. I loved that...and especially noted the good humour part. A much better choice than going about the place grumping and fretting about things.
One day I took that phrase and turned it into an intention. Not being a morning person in my younger days (I was a night owl), it always took a while to feel ready to accept the new day. I really had to work at not being grumpy first thing. So I began telling myself every evening that I would wake with vitality and good humour. And when I woke, there would be those words hovering in the air, as it were, reminding me to skip over the 'ugg' part and smile at the new day. It made such a difference to my life. Eventually I didn't need the daily reminder. It was all thanks to Julia Child and her dear mom. A lesson learned and it wasn't even about cooking.
" Scatter joy "
I have no recollection of when this bright phrase crossed my path, but I do remember writing it out in calligraphy on a card and setting it on my desk at work. From the first moment I loved that expression. It evoked the picture of spent rose petals softly falling on a summer morning, or leaves scattering on the wind in the autumn. I could imagine how people's gentle words and generous gestures could scatter on the breezes in the same way. It would make the world a softer place. Make people happier.
The phrase comes to us courtesy of Ralph Waldo Emerson, that great American poet. According to wisdominwood.com, the concept of 'scattering joy' was noted in his essay The Conduct of Life (1860) where this line of text was found: " There is no beautifier of complexion, or form, or behavior, like the wish to scatter joy and not pain around us... ".
Given the great need for joy in our world, I delight to do my small part in scattering joy about the place.
" You will never change your life
until you change something you do daily. "
JOHN C. MAXWELL
The above line was pinned to my bulletin board for years. The rest of the quote goes: 'The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.' Trying to develop good habits in my youth took quite the effort, like trying to get up on time in the mornings, always rushing to get somewhere and still ending up being late, doing the dishes after supper and not stacking them for days. Not to mention the struggle to say no to the doughnuts brought into the office for coffee breaks, and... well, you get the idea.
I began to look more closely at my daily habits, those areas that created friction and poked like thorns for myself and others, to see what I could adjust. It's been a lifelong process. And struggle. I did finally learn how to plan my days better and not always be late (there's a story about that in my archives -- found it HERE), and eventually I came to the place where doughnuts were no longer in charge of my appetite. Huge victory there!
There was another life that I might
have had, but I am having this one.
KAZUO ISHIGURO, British Author
This line has been an encouragement for me. Now the author may have other thoughts about why he said it, but for me it's a kind of reminder that, yes, I have a good life even if it is a path different than the one I had once imagined. Over the years, I have wondered, what if I had gone to university and studied to become a teacher. It was never on my radar back then, but from my many encounters with children, I would have been a good teacher, I would have loved those kids to pieces. Or, what if I had known that I would be a writer later in life. What if I had taken courses and studied the art of writing sooner, would I be an author with my name on various front covers? Would it be a better life?
Many of the dreams I had when I was twenty didn't quite turn out as I'd hoped—e.g., I didn't meet my husband until I was 40, and I don't have children, which I longed to have, or grandchildren, which were hazy half thoughts of how life should evolve. At the same time, there have been so many little secret heart wishes and hopes that did come to pass, how can I not be grateful for all these good gifts.
So, as Kazuo Ishiguro astutely points out, yes, there was another life I could have had, but this is the one that I'm having. The phrase helps me to let go of possible regrets or sighs. It is what it is. With that, I let go and carry on. This is good, too.
* * *
I owe so much to these sayings and the people who once said them. I am forever grateful for the myriad of wise words, passed down through the ages, that have landed on my lap, usually in a book. I'm a happier, kinder person because of them.
Have my words triggered some of your own life giving words that shaped you over your lifetime, even tipped your life into a different path? I'd love to hear, if you care to share in the comments below.
On that note, I'm wishing you a beautiful day.
Top Photo by Anna Nekrashevich from Pexels
(Huggers) Photo by Klimkin from Pixabay
(Stretching) Photo by Yan-Krukov from Pexels
(Petals) Photo by James Peng from Pixabay
(Basil) Photo by Monicore from Pixabay
(Grape Hyacinth) Photo by Mareefe from Pixabay