My mother loved to teach. She taught sixth grade reading for many years, but she was my teacher for as long as she lived. She taught me many things but her best lessons were the ones she lived every single day. I suspect that my children would say the same thing about me. We can tell our children and grandchildren how to act in certain situations but if we don't model the behavior we want them to have it doesn't matter. What we do is always more important than what we say.
This essay was framed and hung on the wall in my mother's bathroom.
Copyright © 1972/1975 by Dorothy Law Nolte
I read this essay so many times over the years I can almost recite it by heart. It is a powerful reminder of the importance of practicing what we preach.
It Isn't Always Easy
Our country just elected a new President and as I watched the election results on television I scrolled through Facebook and Twitter. Many of the status updates, comments and tweets were vicious. Disappointment had turned into anger. There was foul language and name calling. There was disgust and outrage.
It was hard to believe that these were the same Facebook and Twitter friends that shared recipes and bragged about their children or grandchildren. Some of them even went so far as to say, "If you voted for the candidate who won go ahead and unfriend me now. I want nothing else to do with you." After reading too many of these I put down my phone, turned the television off and went to bed but I couldn't sleep. I kept thinking about the anger and deep division in our country.
In The Heat Of The Moment
I understand getting angry and yes, I have lost my temper and said things in the heat of the moment that I had to ask forgiveness for later. But saying mean, hateful things about people on Facebook and Twitter because you don't agree with the way they voted doesn't make the situation any better, nor does it change anything. It only makes things worse because just like the framed quote I spoke of earlier, children learn what they live.
Fear and Anger
If we wring our hands in anguish and fear and worry about "what if" you can bet our children and grandchildren will do the same thing. If we curse and call people names, that will be copied as well. Our response to difficult situations is what determines our character. Are we going to lie down on the floor and kick and scream like children if we don't get our way? Or are we going to accept the things we can not change with grace and dignity?
I can't think of anyone who invested more time and energy in this campaign than Hillary Clinton. The loss to her opponent had to feel like a punch in the stomach, but when she got her breath back, she addressed her supporters and the nation with a speech that showed her acceptance without malice towards those who voted against her. We all should do the same.
Carl Sandburg said, "To be a good loser is to learn how to win." It is as important to be a good loser as it is to be a gracious and humble winner.
Not winning the election didn't make Hillary Clinton a loser anymore than getting elected made Donald Trump a winner. Many of our most famous Americans lost political races. Abraham Lincoln is the first that comes to mind. When we think about Lincoln do we remember him for the race he lost or for what he did as President?
Trump will have to answer to the same test of time that Lincoln did. One day his victory won't be as significant as what he does during the time he is in office. And the whole world will be watching.
Where Do We Go From Here?
While I don't know what will happen during Trump's years in office I do know that our country is a little like Humpty Dumpty and if we have any hope of putting it back together again we are going to have to do it one little piece at a time and we are going to have to do it together. And we can't work together if we are mad at each other and calling each other names.
Teach Your Children Well
There is a song by Crosby, Stills and Nash called Teach Your Children Well that says in part that we are giving our children a code to live by. As we go forward let us try to remember that our children and grandchildren are watching and listening. We can't change the past but we could change the future if we teach our children well, and we do that by example.