Thursday, February 23, 2017


I owe thanks to CurtissAnn Matlock for the metaphor and image of "gleanings"--she often shares on her blog gleanings from her reading (which is rich and various).

The gleanings I'm interested in today are from our life experiences--what kinds of wise words or supportive philosophies or helpful hints have you gathered and used and shared?

The idea comes--in my reading--from Heather Lende, whose book Find the Good, came about because her publisher wanted her to share her experiences as a writer of obituaries--what last words did she hear from people she talked to prior to their death?

Heather Lende writes that her approach was to think of what message she herself would want to leave with her loved ones--what words did she believe would sustain them throughout their lives? She came up with: Find the good. And that became the title of her book.

For the past 40 or more years we've been bombarded with sound bites. You remember--those little catch-phrases that attempt to summarize a huge idea in a few pithy words. No need to go into detail--the phrase brings it all to life. "Go with the flow." "Think big." "Make a difference."

Without getting too picky, I'll just say that each of those is good as far as it goes. But think about it--Go with the flow? Easy to do. Pretty soon you're not thinking on your own at all. It's all flow. And you know what they say about water--it seeks its lowest level. The flow is, sorry to say, all downhill.

Think big. Hmm. Okay. I know some folks who think big. They're no good a-tall at detail because their ideas, their projects, their visions, are above and beyond anything as mundane as the details. (And before you say it--remember, it's not only the devil who's in the details. God is also.)

Make a difference. Now that sounds like a keeper. In my thinking, the word good is implied in that sentence, as in Make a good difference. Make things better than they are. However--you knew there was a however, didn't you?--however! What if your idea of what makes a good difference isn't the same as, say, your partner's? Or your mother's? Or your best friend's? Or your neighbor's? Does "make a difference" as a working philosophy grant you the right or the obligation to change something to please yourself?

Apparently it all comes back to our basic sense of what's right, or good, or appropriate.

Here are some that I've come up with in my search for examples:

--Be kind.
--Treat others as you want to be treated.
--Forgive and forget.
--Put yourself in the other person's place.

If you think these have a Biblical ring, you're right. In different words and phrases, you'll find them in many of the New Testament teachings. And I have no doubt they're part of the teachings of many religions.

When it comes right down to it, all these "words to live by" are just words, right? And they'll remain just words until you seize on one (or more) and embrace that set of words for your personal approach to life.

One day you may find your chosen phrase no longer works. Nobody guarantees these are set in stone, or that they'll sustain you all your days. You change, you grow; your life takes a turn you didn't expect; you come up against a problem you thought you'd never, ever, have to face. So keep gleaning. Help is everywhere.

Recently the president of our county board of commissioners was quoted in the newspaper about a contentious situation. His approach: "Make one step forward." The story was more involved than that, but the essence was in that one piece of advice.

I've adopted that phrase. For today, I can make one step forward. I do not look to see if I am also going to take two steps back. That is not implied in "one step forward." 

Some days, I'll make no steps at all, in any direction. But my intention is: one step forward.

Forward is forward....


  1. A good one. My keeper has been "first do no harm." If you can get past that one, you're headed in the right direction--"one step forward" at a time. :-)

  2. I like yours, too, Liz. Maybe the real concern here is to actually think about what we do, how we do it. Become intentional in our know? :-)

  3. I think mine is "be present in the moment"...that's what keeps me moving forward, especially on those occasions when I feel stuck in place :-)