What are your favorite words? What’s the best thing anyone has ever said to you? What’s the best thing you say to others, and maybe you need to say to yourself?
Words matter. They make a difference, good or bad, whether spoken or left unsaid.
Think of some words that have changed your life: “Yes.” “No.” “Gone.” “I won’t.” “Help me.” I’m sorry.” “I love you.” “Goodbye.”
I recall countless times when saying those words marked a fork in the road that took me in a new direction. Can you recall times like that, too?
For more than 30 years, I’ve been privileged to work as a writer, and I never cease to be amazed by the power of words.
Do you ever read or hear something you wish you had written or said? I do that most every day. I come across words that are so profoundly good I want to keep them forever.
So years ago, I started a computer file I called (drum roll, please) “A Few Good Words.”
It’s a hodge-podge collection of dozens of quotes and more than a few poems that I like to think were written just for me.
Whenever I take time to read through that file, as I did this morning, I find myself nodding and smiling. And for a while, my world becomes a better place.
Here are a few of the words in that file that speak to me. I hope they speak to you, too:
• “Esse quam videri.” That’s the official motto, adopted in 1893, of my home state, North Carolina. It means, “To be, rather than to seem.”
• “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.” —Robert Frost, from “The Lesson for Today.”
• “The best thing to hold onto in life is each other.” — Audrey Hepburn.
• “I have mean dogs and they will bite you.” — Kiowa Waters, my great-niece at age 5, warning her from her California cousins not to mess with her. I’m tempted to post it as a sign in my driveway.
• “The time is always right to do what is right.” — Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
• “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”—Mark Twain.
• “I’m a writer, but then nobody’s perfect.” — writer Billy Wilder, in a nod to the last line of “Some Like It Hot.”
• “To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone.” — Reba McEntire.
• “Never try to teach a pig to sing. It’s a waste of time and it annoys the pig.”—Lazarus Long.
• Whenever I’m invited to speak at an event, I try to heed this wise advice on speaking by national security advisor Anthony Lake: “Think of yourself as the body at an Irish wake. They need you in order to have the party, but no one expects you to say very much.”
• Here are two quotes by Johnny Cash: “Trust gets you killed, love gets you hurt and being real gets you hated.” And “All your life, you will be faced with a choice. You can choose love or hate…I choose love.”
• And two quotes by Oscar Wilde: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” And “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.”
• And two quotes from St. Teresa: “People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered; forgive them anyway.” And “Peace begins with a smile.”
• Here’s a Bible verse I learned as a child from my granddad, who was, among many things, a Baptist preacher. This verse, like his love of him, has seen me through a lot of hard times: “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” — John 16:33.
• Finally, I don’t know who said this, but it’s a strong contender for my epitaph: “Here lies a woman of whom it was said, her sins were many, but her columns were read.”
Words matter. What do you need to hear? What do you need to say? Here’s wishing you and yours a lifetime of good words.
Sharon Randall is the author of “The World and Then Some.” She can be reached at PO Box 922, Carmel Valley CA 93924, or www.sharonrandall.com.