Sunday, April 03, 2022

A Few Words that Shaped My Life

" 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, 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. "

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.

Warm hugs,


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


  1. Brenda, a post full of delight and wisdom I have often pondered over the Ishiguro words and wondered where else my life might have lead.

    1. I find it most interesting that we both have pondered that Ishiguro quote. Wouldn't it be lovely to sit with tea and chat more about our thoughts on it? Thanks, Barbara.

  2. I really enjoyed this post today. The words are all wonderful.

  3. Simple but profound words, full of wisdom and light, spoken by those who have mentored us from afar! We're blessed beyond measure.

    1. So many have mentored us from afar. I do hope that one day they will know the blessing their words and lives have been to us.

  4. What a lovely post, Brenda. I like your idea of collecting those life-shaping quotes into one spot. At the moment, I have three of mine handy to my mind -
    1. Mary Oliver's "Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it."
    2. Read on Corey Amaro's blog some years ago "Eat less. Move more." Along with that I ask myself from time to time "who is stronger? You, or the cookie?" Sadly, the cookie wins all too often!
    3. Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand and melting like a snowflake." Sir Francis Bacon
    4. As I wrote the above, another came to mind, from Al Purdy's poem On the Flood Plain
    "Whatever I have not discovered and enjoyed
    is still waiting for me
    and there will be time..."

    The last two seem contradictory as the Bacon quote talks about getting on with things, whereas Purdy's lines reflect an attitude of unhurried anticipation. The next lines speak about living in the moment.

    Your choices are all ones to take to heart. Thank you once again for your lovely thoughts.

    1. Lorrie, I do like the four quotes you mention. More lovely thoughts to ponder. Thank you for adding them to our conversation.

  5. I realized as a young mom, that I could change the atmosphere in my home. I chose joy, I chose looking for the good, and I chose to laugh, more than be upset. Was I perfect. No. But it has changed my life, and I hope, the lives of my family.

    1. I love your thoughts, Deanna. Choosing joy, looking for the good, choosing to laugh. Such wonderful guidelines to a more beautiful and peaceful life for ourselves and our families.

  6. Your words have helped me more then you know!

  7. Your first quote really spoke to me today. Sometimes it feels like I cannot do all that I think I should, but truthfully I need only to reach out to one person at a time.

    1. It's a favourite quote - one that disentangles us from feeling it's impossible to realizing it's possible to do something.

  8. Oh my this post has been such an encouragement. I've copied every quote & even quoted some of your own words into my quote book. Thanks for the reminders to keep looking forward, never stop growing & always spread joy.

  9. Good morning, Bren. This is such an encouraging and thoughtful post. As you know, I love thoughtful words. They have always inspired me and kept me moving forward, lifted my heart during sad times and always, always made me think. I especially love Emerson's, "Scatter Joy." Those words were in my head from the time I was probably six or seven years old. My mom would say them to me every time I left the house. She lived those words and believed them with all her heart and she wanted me to do the same.

    All the quotes have so much insight and depth to them. They are now in my 'little book of special things.' And, I thank you more than you can imagine.

    Have a lovely day, my friend.

    1. I love the idea, Sandra, that your mom would tell you to scatter joy when you were a little girl when you left the house. Such a beautiful impact.

  10. Dearest Brenda this was the loveliest of posts. Your writing skills in my humble opinion far surpass those of very successful authors. You are a writer and your posts always continue to spread joy. I know it is always such a pleasure to come visit you and read your words of wisdom. Thank you for sharing some of the words that shaped your life. One of my Mom's dear sayings was "life is not a is a journey". Not sure they shaped my life but they help me remember to seize each day and soak up whatever joy there is to find. Have a great weekend. Hugs!

    1. Debbie, Oh my goodness, you have poured a wonderful affirmation into my heart today. Such lovely words, and I so appreciate them. I do love your last line: " seize each day and soak up whatever joy there is to find." What a beautiful way to live. Thank you. Heart hugs, Brenda xo

  11. Thank you, Brenda, for this post. I find myself getting cranky, because I can't do as much as I used to. I need to slow down and seize the moment and find the joy in the little things, again. Love the scatter joy. That is my new intention, again!! Love your posts, they always make me feel better.

    1. CJ, I'm so glad you found words that resonated and gave your spirits a lift. Thank you so much for your lovely comment.


To My Beautiful Readers,

Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same. ~ Franz Peter Schubert

Thank you so much for leaving your 'footprint' here in my comment box. I do appreciate you taking a moment to share your thoughts today.

Brenda xo