words wednesdays // life rules

In honor of Father's Day, let's bring back Words Wednesdays and have a little fireside chat (or bonfire perhaps for summer?). When I finished eighth grade my parents gave me a book full of letters and advice from all of my friends and family. I don't know where they got the idea, but it had a huge impact on me. From my Grandmother's wise (and intimidating) advice that, "Everything you do represents your family." To my aunts simple plea to "read, read, read." My Dad however, Robert Fulghum's now famous list, "All I really need to know I learned in Kindergarten." For those of you who aren't familiar with the list (or book) here it is.
All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand pile at school.
These are the things I learned:
  • Share everything.
  • Play fair.
  • Don't hit people.
  • Put things back where you found them.
  • Clean up your own mess.
  • Don't take things that aren't yours.
  • Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
  • Wash your hands before you eat.
  • Flush.
  • Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
  • Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
  • Take a nap every afternoon.
  • When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
  • Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
  • Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we. 
  • And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK.
Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.

Take any one of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if we all - the whole world - had cookies and milk at about 3 o'clock in the afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had as a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.

And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out in the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.
I love this list and I think of it often. For many of us these rules are obvious, but we're too caught up in the minutiae of day to day life to follow them. And let's be honest, it's not always easy for adults to say sorry, or be in the moment, or live a balanced life. For my dad, an ER physician, the big picture is often smacking you in the face whether you like it or not. The daily reminder of how precious life is is only too real. In a minute anything can happen, and your life can change. And I'm sure that's why he gave me this list. A simple reminder of life's most complicated lessons.

Milk and cookies included. 

What's some of the best advice your parents (or anyone) have given you?