“Bewitched, bothered, and bewildered am I” wrote US songwriter Lorenz Hart about the feeling of infatuation. It’s blissful and euphoric, as we all know. But it’s also addicting, messy and blinding. Without careful monitoring, its wild wind can rage through your life leaving you much like the lyrics of a country song: without a wife, […]
1. Be Cool to the Pizza Dude
Coolness to the pizza delivery dude is a practice in humility and forgiveness. I let him cut me off in traffic, let him safely hit the exit ramp from the left lane, let him forget to use his blinker without extending any of my digits out the window or toward my horn because there should be one moment in my harried life when a care may encroach or cut off or pass ad I let it go.
Sometimes when I have become so certain of my ownership of my lane, daring anyone to challenge me, the pizza dude speeds by in his rusted Chevette. His pizza light atop his car glowing like a beacon reminds me to check myself as I flow through the world. After all, the dude is delivering pizza to young and old, families and singletons, gays and straights, blacks, whites, and browns, rich and poor, and vegetarians and meat lovers alike. As he journeys, I give safe passage, practice restraint, show courtesy, and contain my anger.
–Sarah Adams, English professor at Olympic College in Washington
2. Give and You Shall Receive
Paralyzed and silent in her bed, my daughter Paula taught me a lesson that is now my mantra: You only have what you give. It’s by spending yourself that you become rich. …The pain of losing my child was a cleansing experience. I had to throw overboard all excess baggage and keep only what is essential. Because of Paula, I don’t cling to anything anymore. Now I like to give much more than I receive. I am happier when I love than when I am loved. I adore my husband, my son, my grandchildren, my mother, my dog, and frankly I don’t know if they even like me. But who cares? Loving them is my joy.
Give, give, give–what is the point of having experience, knowledge, or talent if I don’t give it away? Of having stories if I don’t tell them to others? Of having wealth if I don’t share it? I don’t intend to be cremated with any of it! It is in giving that I connect with others, with the world, and with the divine. In is in giving that I feel the spirit of my daughter inside me, like a soft presence.
–Isabel Allende is the author of “The House of the Spirits” and “My Invented Country”
3. Be Capable of Change
I believe that man’s noblest endowment is his capacity to change…. I believe in the potential of people. I cannot rest passively with those who give up in the name of “human nature.” Human nature is only animal nature if it is obligated to remain static. Without growth, without metamorphosis, there is no godhead. If we believe that man can never achieve a society without wars, then we are condemned to wars forever. This is the easy way. But the laborious, loving way, the way of dignity and divinity, presupposes a belief in people and in their capacity to change, grow, communicate, and love.
–Leonard Bernstein is a composer, conductor, pianist, and educator.
4. Be Still and Listen
I believe I have to remove myself from the voices that barrage me in order to find my true compass. This includes a daily walk just to listen. The guiding light of my life is the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit. In our hectic, noisy world, I have to slow down or withdraw in order to hear it. Prayer, I have discovered, is less about what I say and more about what I hear….
I believe in a daily walk to listen because that is when I am close to God, that is when I find my way. And I am most at peace when I tune out the voices of the world long enough to hear the still, small voice of God directing me. “Be still,” Psalm 46 reminds me, “and know that I am God.”
–Susan Cosio is a chaplain at Sutter Medical Center in Sacramento, California
I believe in the power of presence.
There is such a thing as truth, but we often have a vested interest in ignoring it or outright denying it. Also, it’s not just thinking something that makes it true. Truth is not relative. It’s not subjective. It may be elusive or hidden. People may wish to disregard it. But there is such thing as truth and the pursuit of truth: trying to figure out what has really happened, trying to figure out how things really are. …
I believe in the 50-percent theory. Half the time things are better than normal; the other half, they are worse. I believe life is a pendulum swing. It takes time and experience to understand what normal is, and that gives me the perspective to deal with the surprises of the future. … But there is a vast meadow of life in the middle, where the bad and the good flip-flop acrobatically. This is what convinces me to believe in the 50-percent theory.
I believe that a little outrage can take you a long way. … I am deeply familiar with that hollow place that outrage carves in your soul. I’ve fed off of it to sustain my work for many years. But it hasn’t eaten me away completely, maybe because the hollow place gets filled with other, more powerful things like compassion, faith, family, music, the goodness of people around me. These things fill me up and tempter my outrage with a deep sense of gratitude that I have the privilege of doing my small part to make things better.
I believe it is possible for ordinary people to achieve extraordinary things. For me, the difference between “ordinary” and an “extraordinary” person is not the title that person might have, but what they do to make the world a better place for us all. … And I believe that if enough ordinary people back up our desire for a better world with action, we can, in fact, accomplish absolutely extraordinary things.