The older I get, the more I realize that children have some of the best answers to the basic questions of life. They seem to instinctively know how to manage the twists and turns of everyday living.
With all my education, experience and wisdom, I have learned to look to a five-year-old for some of the wisest lessons in getting through life.
Here are my top ten favorites:
Play is the best medicine. Children have the ability to play with anything, anytime. It’s how they release their emotions and feelings. It’s also how they heal themselves.
Take a nap when you’re tired. Children can sleep anywhere, when they need to. What a great gift is that!
Always greet your elders with a hug and a kiss. This is good advice your whole life – no matter how old you are. Grannies always love to be greeted this way.
Every day is a fresh start. No matter what happens today, no matter how bad it is or who hurts them, tomorrow is always a new day to a child. All is forgotten and everything is possible again. Each morning is a clean slate.
Be courageous. Sing out loud. Dance to the music. Children are not confined by fear of failure or shame. They embrace life.
Laugh every day. Children see silliness everywhere. Look for the humor in your everyday life.
Be active. Get up and move. Go outside. Find something to do. Contact a friend. Children rarely sit in a rocking chair staring into space, thinking about the past.
Scars are badges of honor. Scars are sources of pride to children, not signs of weakness. Be proud of your scars. Tell the story. Make yourself the hero. Pass on the wisdom.
Try new things. Children do not fear the unknown. They will try a new game, dive into a pool or jump on a trampoline. Be adventurous. Get out of your comfort zone. Step into the unknown.
Notice the little things. Children can be fascinated by the smallest of things – ants crossing a sidewalk, the tiny feet of birds, the wings of a bumblebee. The things we take for granted bring them great joy. Take notice of all the small miracles around you, and see how much more beautiful your life will be.
Becoming more childlike is one of the wisest things we can do as we age.
The one thing I always wanted was family. I loved the thought of having many cousins, aunts and uncles. I always wanted a sister. I thrived on large family gatherings.
Having said all that, family is the one thing I was never blessed with. I don’t relate to either of my brothers. One just doesn’t respond in any way. The other was in the prison system most of his adult life and died early.
My mother died at age fifty and none of her family has spoken to us since then. My dad’s family has never related to us in all these years. I have cousins I have never met, seen or talked to.
Because Gramps is a genealogist, I know more about my distant relatives than I do about relatives my own age. It broke my heart as a child. Wanting what I couldn’t have and having no way to fix it. I had no power to get the family I wanted, when I was young.
When I got married and had children, I thought now I had the family I was looking for. I had a devoted husband and two children.
Except now our son is not speaking to us. Our daughter and her family live nearby but we only see them about once a month. But lucky me, I have our niece who has become our daughter and her five children, who have become our grandchildren. We see them a couple times a year and those times are so special.
Still there are no large family gatherings. No extended family to relate to.
So I have devised my own way to have a family. I have friends that care about me the way a relation would. Some of these friends have been in my life for many years and some are recent acquaintances. But all of them fill a hole in my heart and my life.
My friends share my love of sewing and quilting. We love to sit together with fabric, needle and thread in our hands, sharing our thoughts about everything. We care for each other in good times and difficult times.
My friends call me. They check-up on me. They ask me if I’m okay. I do the same for them.
My friends invite me for dinner and holidays. We have lunch together. We share potlucks and buffets.
My friends share my good news and are happy for me. They hold my hand and cry with me if the news is bad. My friends do not abandon me – ever.
My friends are my family. My lifetime wish has been fulfilled. I have many sisters now. I have gatherings large and small. I have the equivalent of dozens of cousins.
The one thing I always wanted, I now have to my heart’s content. I couldn’t be happier.
When I was the appropriate age, about fifteen, I took the regular Driver’s Ed. class in school. It was regular then, not so much now. But it was all book learning – no actual behind-the-wheel training.
So my dad took on the job of teaching me to drive. I thought it would take a day or two for me to become a good driver. Boy, was I in for a surprise! To begin with, I learned to drive on a four-speed stick-shift – not easy.
First he took me to an abandoned shopping center parking lot to teach me to park. Yes, the dreaded parallel parking! He would stand at the end of one space, pretending to be the back end of a car. I was then to park behind him – without hitting him!
Oh mercy sakes! Figure out how to parallel park or kill your father! And he never budged one inch – ever!
Then we would drive home on the freeway – of all things! Believe me, I was thrown in the deep end of the driving pool.
But I did pretty good, until the day he had me drive all the way into the driveway. Evidently I was getting too close to the garage door and he yelled, “Stop!!!!!!” He startled me so badly I pressed on the gas instead of the brake. We went through the garage door, damaged the brick surround, which fell on the washer and dryer, and the car, damaging all of them.
Sitting in the car with a garage door and bricks on top of me, I was in tears. I cried, “I don’t believe this!” “Oh, believe it!” he said in a very flat tone.
During the reconstruction of the garage, my friends asked what kind of renovation were we doing at our house. I was too ashamed to say I had driven through the garage door.
I did get better and eventually was able to drive all the way home and park the car in the garage with no harm to house or car.
My dad was a good teacher and taught me everything I needed to know to take my driver’s test. On the day of the test, the gentleman said my parallel parking was great and my freeway driving was very good.
The one thing I didn’t know and Daddy failed to tell me – don’t stop in a crosswalk. Oops!
But I passed my test with flying colors and never ran into a garage door again.
When I was in high school – let’s see, that was in the 60’s! – our Walgreens had a restaurant area. It was sort of a diner with a counter with stools. Very retro now, but commonplace at the time.
I worked there after school and for two summers my last year of high school. I was the youngest one there, not counting the busboys.
Even so, I was always on the cash register when I worked. I never understood that. Was I the only one that could count?
I did learn to give change the proper way, however, which is a big pet peeve of mine to this day, when I get all my change handed to me in a pile. I don’t know what to do with a clump of change.
Anyway, we carried everything on big metal trays. Until the day I spilled six tall milk shakes in glass containers that broke when they hit the floor. That was an interesting day.
I learned to carry five plates of food at one time. I can still do that today. It really impresses the grandchildren.
Every Saturday, I manned the counter, which was a nightmare. Hundreds of kids coming in, wanting a water and a Coke. I would tell them, “You can have one or the other, not both.” I wasn’t going to work that hard for no tip.
And usually on those Saturdays, I didn’t make enough in tips to buy my meal.
And then once a month we had a hot dog stand, which was manned by, guess who? Yes, me! Again, a million kids and no tips. A waitress’s nightmare.
But did I learn a lot working in the little diner! The experience changed my life totally for the better.
Whenever I got discouraged about continuing on in school, I would look at the other waitresses. They were mostly single, in their forties, supporting families on what they made working at our little Walgreens. The encouraged me daily to stay in school and further my education.
I learned perserverence and devotion from a wonderful man who brought his autistic son to the counter every Saturday. It was their routine. The son never spoke but the dad always laughed and smiled. He seemed to be having the best time, when it must have been so difficult for him.
Two of my favorite waitresses pierced my ears in the stock room one day. My one single act of rebellion in high school. It felt wonderful and I wasn’t a bit afraid.
One of the greatest things I learned from those wonderful waitresses was to be kind and gracious to everyone. Greet everyone with a smile and a lilt in your voice. Give a bit more than is asked of you. And always be proud of your work. Whatever you do, do your best. Work as a team.
While I was working there, a few waitresses learned that the busboys were eating some of the leftover food they were picking up from the tables. This bothered them so, that they got other waitresses to start splitting their tips with the boys so they could buy their meals. This really impressed me at the time and has stayed with me my whole life. The fact that people who have so little would be willing to give to those who have even less. I’ve never forgotten.
Those days at Walgreens were wonderful. I learned to be a fast and efficient waitress. I learned to talk “diner.” I learned what return customers meant by “the usual.”
I learned to be responsible and handled money. I became more grown up. I took my lickings with a smile. I was proud of my paycheck.
I owe those waitresses a lot. More than they ever knew. They helped my grow. They helped me mature. They kept me in school.
In so many ways they have affected my whole life.
Thank you, ladies!
Okay, I’ll admit it! I’m a woman! And proud of it! Maybe I wasn’t always – proud, that is.
I remember wishing as a young chil that I could be strong like a boy and do some of the things the boys could do. But age brings wisdom and now I bask in my womanhood.
I think women have so many options these days in so many arenas of life. We can be gentle and strong, quiet and loud, a follower and a leader, a teacher and a student, a stay-at-home mom and a CEO. We can be anything we can envision or dream.
Women are the heart and soul of the family. We set the mood and tone of the whole unit through our interactions with each individual. As the old saying goes, “When mama’s happy, everyone’s happy.”
We are allowed, by society, a much broader range of emotions and emotional responses than men. How refreshing it is to to be able to express ourselves in such a true manner and to know we have an arsenal of feelings at our disposal.
Women are blessed with the ability to bear children. It’s a special gift given and should be viewed as such. It creates a bond with a child that is unique in the world. I wouldn’t trade motherhood for anything.
We women have a special bond with each other. Having sisters in heart is a great privilege and great fun. I can’t imagine getting through life without the support and love of my friends and fellow females. We form the most wonderful little villages of interests, concern and hobbies, and build into forts of protection, help and family.
Women influence the world just by being who they are. They don’t have to go through somebody else or be somebody else to make a positive mark.
Every good word I speak makes a mark. Every good example I set makes a mark. Every positive act I support makes a mark.
I am a woman and I love it. I’m right where I’m supposed to be and doing what I have been charged to do – make a difference.
By Thich Nhat Hanh
The cosmos is filled with precious gems.
I want to offer a handful of them to you this morning.
Each moment you are alive is a gem, shining and containing earth and sky, water and clouds.
It needs you to breathe gently for the miracles to be displayed.
Suddenly you hear the birds singing, the pines chanting, see the flowers blooming, the blue sky, the white clouds, the smile and marvelous look of your beloved.
You, the richest person on Earth, who have been going around begging for a living, stop being the destitute child.
Come back and claim your heritage.
We should enjoy our happiness and offer it to everyone.
Cherish this very moment.
Let go of the stream of distress and embrace life fully in your arms.
I am wrong, often. And when I am, I feel terrible about it. But what if something good could come from my errors? What if the world could become a better place? What if I could become a much better person?
When I make a mistake, my first instinct is to feel shame and I want to hide myself. But maybe it’s an opportunity to feel humility and begin to forgive myself. I’m not alone in my wrongful ways. I could forgive someone else. Why not me?
Apologies are next forthcoming. I apologize – usually many times. This is a good lesson in acceptance of our own behavior. We have to be able to put into words what we have done wrong and how we have harmed another person.
Then the next thing I feel is the need to be forgiven by the other person. To ask for and accept forgiveness is a true blessing. It may not be easy but it is certainly necessary.
Making amends is the part that is most often forgotten. Making things right again is hard. It takes time. It takes effort. It takes thought. We think we’re done when we have been forgiven, but we’re not. We need to make restitution. That makes us stronger and more mindful of other people.
Then there is the final lesson to be learned from the entire event. What is the positive thing you learned from your mistake? Don’t let all the time and effort be a waste. Make your life and yourself better for it. Gain something from the experience.
That way you are less likely to allow the same error to occur. You will improve and definitely become wiser.
I’m thinking that with all the mistakes I’ve made in my life, I should be perfect by now! Seriously!
But truthfully, mistakes are going to happen. Make them growth opportunities. Lean into them. Admit to them. Solve them. Be better for them. Learn the lesson.
I think I’m already old and there are so many things about my age I was not prepared for. Like the fact that it hurts to get out of bed in the morning. Or the need for eve-increasing eyeglass prescriptions. Or the fact that I now tip over so easily, kind of like a Weeble.
I’m not sure when this all happened. Just sort of gradually over the years. I know I don’t walk as fast as I used to and I certainly don’t run anymore. I have arthritis in a couple of my fingers and my eyesight is definitely not what it used to be. I forget more things but I am still able to learn new things.
My body has declined as I have aged. That is a fact. But I am still mobile and am still able to do my hand sewing. Those are big gifts I have been given.
I am definitely a lot smarter and wiser than I’ve ever been. Over the many years of experience, I have gained knowledge that is indispensable to me now. It was earned, it was paid for, it is mine.
As I age, I gain wisdom and grace to deal with life in all its forms – the good and the difficult. Decisions become easier because I’ve tried many options in the past. I’m now the one that passes that learning to the younger ones in the family.
So it seems to be a real balancing act. As part of me is losing strength, another part is gaining. I remember past days when I could do something that I no longer can do, but I also look forward to tomorrow when I will be better than I am today.
Which means every day is my best day.