Striving to be quotable

Sherri Gardner HowellFarragut

I love quotable quotes. I love maxims, adages and mottos. I love all those sayings that we like to throw around when words fail us and when we need to explain actions that don’t make sense to others.

Well, I don’t love ALL of them. I cannot abide, for example, “well, that’s just the way I am.” I am weary of “Live, Love, Laugh” and “Sing like no one is listening, blah, blah, blah.”

But, with those and probably a few more exceptions, I love those sayings and phrases we hang on to for inspiration and the occasional pick-me-up.

My own personal life creed is the sometimes called the Cadet Maxim because they use it at West Point: “Excellence can be attained if you care more than others think is wise, risk more than others think is safe, dream more than others think is practical, and expect more than others think is possible.”

One friend, who thinks creeds should be short enough to put on a needlepoint pillow, said, “So, basically, you don’t give a flip what others think?”

She missed the point. My mother had a tenet that could be shortened to its Biblical reference: Romans 8:28. While she would, if pushed, refresh a failing Bible scholar’s memory, her quick answer was, “Look it up.”

That may have been because people who knew my mom the best sometimes had a hard time understanding why and how she would cling to Romans 8:28, which in King James says: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

First of all, my mother was not an every-Sunday-at-church attendee. Her children were, but she would sometimes drop us off at the door and pick us up after the service. Sometimes that was because there was Sunday dinner to prepare. Sometimes, maybe, she just wanted a little time alone.

Second, my mother did not have a storybook life. It was obvious that she was one of “them” who loved God. The harder part for those looking at her life would be the “all things” working for good to her life. She lost two husbands – one to cancer and one to an airplane crash – before she was 40. She was left to raise two children alone with only a surviving Air Force spouse pension and government aid to dependent children. She had to give up a life she enjoyed as the wife of an Air Force captain when she moved back to the small town where she was born to raise her children near family.

But she never changed her life’s creed. She repeated it to me often when I would feel the world was out to get me.

I am also a sucker for famous sayings. I love those people who speak in quotes, whose thoughts are so concise, beliefs so passionate and wit so sharp that they just boil everything down to poignant or funny or moving statements that stick with you. I’m always looking for that phrase of my own – the one that when someone says, “Who said that?” I can say, “I did.”

I haven’t found it yet, but I’m still working on it. In the meantime, let me leave you with one of my very, very favorites from the most quotable person in the universe, Maya Angelou. It will have some relevance in our family in the next two weeks and, I’m betting, in yours, too.

“I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he or she handles these three things: A rainy day, lost luggage and tangled Christmas tree lights.”

’Tis the season…


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.