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I recently picked up a copy of the University of Louisville School of Medicine’s geriatrics calendar celebrating the core values of amazing seniors.
In it, 80-year-old Mary Jane Mullins said: “Accept life on life’s terms; bear its sorrow with patience and savor its joys; love others and yourself; grow spiritually. It’s NOT what you believe, but what you DO that counts!”
And I loved the whimsical comments from 80-year-old Edward D. Triner who said, “I strive, not for perfection, for anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.
“This has allowed me flexibility and freedom to try new things.”
This calendar and my love for the elderly made me reflect on my own core values.
The belief that people are basically good is one of my core values that makes me feel at home in the world.
For I firmly believe the world is plotting to do me good, not harm.
Where did this all-important trust come from? It came from my loving family and has allowed me to extend this trust outward to a caring and secure community. It didn’t matter how big our house was. It mattered that there was love in it. It didn’t matter if our neighborhood was wealthy or otherwise. It mattered that neighbors talked to each other and looked out for one another.
The kindnesses that allowed me to trust in people and in the basic goodness of the world could not be measured in dollars; they were paid for, rather, in hugs and ice cream cones and help with homework. They were kindnesses that every parent and every community should be able to shower on their children.
Tolerance is another one of my core values that allows me to deal with the realities of differences and conflict. Let’s be honest: if people were all more or less the same, if there were no differences in race, religion, sexual orientation, and political leanings, life would in some ways be easier. But it sure would be dull! Diversity is the spice of life. Our ability to embrace diversity makes our own lives richer.
Another one of my family’s core values is a fervent belief in education. I’m not just talking about education at the college or graduate level. Life is what we make it, and if we want our lives to be as rich and round and gratifying as possible, we should try to learn about everything, not just what we need to know to make our livings, but all the innumerable subjects at the periphery of our specialties.
My parents showed me how much serenity and joy there could be in sitting quietly with a book. I think education is the fulfillment of curiosity. One of the best things parents can do for their children is to keep that curiosity stoked. My folks’ favorite phrase if I had a question was to “Go look it up” in the dictionary or encyclopedia.
One more core value I learned from my family that might be the most important of all was to develop a personal work ethic. The essence of a good work ethic is not working 60 or 80 hours a week at a job.
A good work ethic starts with meeting a challenge of self-discovery, finding something you love to do, so that work, even when it is very difficult and arduous, becomes joyful, maybe even sacred. A sane and durable work ethic keeps the emphasis not on fickle rewards, but on the work itself, on the passion and focus and seriousness of purpose with which the work is applauded.
Imagine how much easier it would be to succeed in life if you were constantly living by deep core values that expected the world to support you and bring you opportunity. Successful people do just that. In fact, there is growing research that the vibrations of positive expectation that successful people give off actually attract to them the very experiences they believe they are going to get. Suddenly, obstacles and negatives are seen not as just another example of “Gee, the world hates me,” but as opportunities to grow and change and succeed.
Bob Mueller is the assistant vice president of mission & stewardship at Hopsarus. The views in this column are those of the writer.