Be nice. I can’t even pretend to count how many times this order was issued. It was a cornerstone for all other orders. You don’t have to be the best or the greatest. But you always have to be nice. You don’t have to be a doormat, but you do have to be nice. Just, for the love of God, be nice. It’s important. You can stand up for yourself, politely. You can defend others, with compassion. You can move through life and achieve your dreams and still be nice. No man is an island. For all of us to live together, it is easier if we are all nice. Since we can’t control other people, at least you can be nice. So, in short, be nice.

Be neat. You don’t have to be spotless. You don’t have to scrub the corners of baseboards. But you do need to be orderly and neat. You save hours of time if you put things away so you can find them when you need them. If you just set your crap down, it gets lost, misplaced, and even thrown out. But if you put it away, you have safely taken care of whatever it is. Corollary; make your bed every day. It takes under five minutes and it sets up your day for order. Second corollary; laundry baskets are a thing, use them. Hangers are a thing, use them, too. Also be neat in your appearance. It matters.

Be industrious. Everyone needs down time but we don’t need down lives. This is your only chance to be on Earth and you have a limited time here. Make use of it. Relax when you need to, but don’t relax all the time. That’s not relaxing. That’s sloth. Side note: I love sloth. But when I sit for too long, there is my mother’s voice nagging inside my head telling me to DO something. You can’t just sit there – unless you are reading. Then you can, because reading is a good thing.

Be helpful. Open the door for the person with the full hands. Smile your thanks, or better yet vocalize your thanks when someone helps you. Look for ways to be of service to others. It doesn’t have to be a big, major undertaking although choosing a career of helpfulness might be ideal, there are still plenty of ways to be helpful outside of career choices. Every single day there are less fortunate people surrounding you. Reach out and help.

Be patient. Yes, it would be lovely if everything you ever wanted was available for you right this instant. Of course, that would take all the fun out of it. Anticipation is key to much of our enjoyment. Earning the thing, even when it takes time and effort, also adds to the lusciousness, the savoring of the treat you worked to earn. Waiting is part of life. Get used to it. And spend your time in reveling in the upcoming thrill, whatever that may be.

Be fearless. This lesson was not just voiced. She lived it. She went back to college after getting her own kids in school. She was a mostly single parent (as most women of the era were in charge of everything domestic, but also because our dad travelled across the state for his job), newly returned to college, and worked a full time job. She mastered the whole adult student thing. She changed her job three times after she turned forty, always keeping her goal of helping children become adequate adults at the center. Her choices were inspirational.

There were many small lessons, given on the fly. Examples lived in order to teach us how to be the kind of people who make the world a better place. The smiles bestowed, the tears dried, the caring hands reaching out to fix what little bit was near. While it is impossible for us to make the entire world better, it is not only possible, but desperately needed, for us to fix the part right here.

Thanks, Mom. I hope you are proud of my meager ability to practice the lessons you so patiently taught. Happy birthday. You made the world a better place. There isn’t anything better to say than that.


Mom getting ready to go into the mines. She was always up for any adventure.             Living large.