Ten Lessons for Life
Marian Wright Edelman

  

(The following ten "lessons" are taken from Edelman's "Twenty-Five Lessons for Life," in her book The Measure of Our SuccessA Letter to My Children and Yours.)

1.  There is no free lunch.  Don't feel entitled to anything you don't sweat and struggle for.  And help our nation understand that it's not entitled to world leadership based on the past or on what we say rather than how well we perform and meet changing world needs.

2.  Set goals and work quietly and systematically toward them.  We must all try to resist quick-fix, simplistic answers and easy gains, which often disappear just as quickly as they come.

3.  Assign yourself.  My Daddy used to ask us whether the teacher had given us any homework.  If we said no, he'd say, "Well, assign yourself."  Don't wait around for your boss or your co-worker or spouse to direct you to do what you are able to figure out and do for yourself.  Don't do just as little as you can to get by.

4.  Don't be afraid of taking risks or of being criticized.  An anonymous sage said, "If you don't want to be criticized don't say anything, do anything, or be anything."  Don't be afraid of failing.  It's the way you learn to do things right.

5.  Remember and help others remember that the fellowship of human beings is more important than the fellowship of race and class and gender in a democratic society.  Be decent and fair and insist that others be so in your presence.  Don't tell, laugh at, or in any way acquiesce to racial, ethnic, religious, or gender jokes or to practices intended to demean rather than enhance another human being.

6.  Be confident that you can make a difference.  Don't get overwhelmed.  Sometimes when I get frantic about all I have to do and spin my wheels, I try to recall Carlyle's advice:  "Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand."

7.  "Slow down and live" is an African song I sing inside my head when I begin flitting around like a hen with her head wrung off:  "Brother slow down and live, brother slow down and live, brother slow down and live, you've got a long way to go.  Brothers love one another, brothers love one another, brothers love one another, you've got a long way to go."

8.  Choose your friends carefully.  Stay out of the fast lane, and ignore the crowd.  You were born God's original.  Try not to become someone's copy.

9.  Listen for "the sound of the genuine" within yourself and others.  Meditate and learn to be alone without being lonely.  "Small," Einstein said, "is the number of them that see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts."  Try to be one of them.

10.  You are in charge of your own attitude--whatever others do or circumstances you face.  The only person you can control is yourself.  Worry more about your attitude than your aptitude or lineage.
    

To help parents chart a course for their children based on traditional values--self-reliance, family, hard work, justice, the pursuit of knowledge and of brotherhood-- Edelman, founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund, effectively recounts her experience and vision in essays variously addressed to her own children, to all children and to parents.

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What are we going to get out of life?  This can understandably be
a question of fundamental importance to us.  We begin with certain
basic needs and desires.  It is important to have a comfortable
home, plenty of food, a meaningful and well-paying job, comfort,
companionship, and joy.  However, many of us have not fully
realized a simple, basic principle:  for our receiving to take place,
we must first give.  Giving and receiving are two
aspects of the same law of life.

John Marks Templeton
Worldwide Laws of Life

   

  
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Life is brimming with things to be discovered and known, skills to
be mastered, challenges to be overcome.  And when you are
discouraged, dig a hole in the earth and think of the possibilities.
So many things can be planted in your lifetime, skills that once
mastered will bear fruit forever. . . . Pluck up some enthusiasm
for the business of life, for the loamy matter that supports us
all.  Become a handyman and spread your skills wide, digging
deeper into the earth’s crust to uncover its secrets.

Christopher Kimball