All I Really Need to Know…
There is a popular book by Robert Fulghum titled All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. He has a list of 16 basic rules that are taught in kindergarten yet can be extrapolated to address our everyday challenges and triumphs as adults. The list includes things like “Play fair” and “Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.”
Similarly, I’ve realized that a lot of the fundamental ways I look at the world have their roots in some of my favorite childhood books. The ones my Mom read to me countless times. That I read myself when I was old enough. That I read to my kids when they were little.
I’ve always loved reading. A good story can transport you through time, conjure a million pictures in your head. Make you laugh, or cry. And reading to kids – even the teeniest of babies who don’t cognitively know what you’re reading to them yet – is one of the greatest gifts we can give our kids. The time spent together is priceless and on top of it we get to choose books that instill these valuable lessons in them without any lecture, without any force or real effort. The story always has a message. And the stories kids grow to love can help build character that reflects these messages. This time reading can inspire a lifetime thirst for learning!
So I thought it would be fun to share a few of my favorites.
I wrote an entire piece on Too Much Noise which teaches the valuable lesson of perspective. It’s so easy to get caught up looking at things in our world myopically. But when we step back – see the forest and not just the trees – it’s an entirely different view and this can be really helpful.
I also mentioned Frederick in a recent piece. Frederick is a field mouse. While his family is busy gathering food for the winter, they get frustrated with Frederick seemingly sitting around doing nothing. They don’t understand when Frederick says he is gathering sunlight, colors and words. Yet in the dark, cold winter, when food supplies start running thin, Frederick shares his ‘supplies’ and brings warmth and joy to his family by sharing what he gathered. This story instills appreciation for the value of experience, and how we can be warmed by a shared experience. It also shows the importance of people (or mice!) contributing in different ways.
Be yourself! And don’t judge something before you try it
Elephant on Wheels is a fun one. Petunia is an elephant who loves to roller skate. Her family doesn’t think an elephant should roller skate but Petunia doesn’t care what other people think or do, she loves to roller skate! Her family worries what the neighbors will think. So one by one, they take turns hiding Petunia’s roller skates. But each time, she’s skating again the next day. Finally, they find out she’s been buying new skates each day so now there is a pair for everyone in the family… They all try roller skating and love it! The lessons here are first – be more like Petunia, and do what you love regardless whether you are “supposed to” or whether anyone else thinks you should. And second – don’t judge something before you really know what it’s about because you just might like it!
Appreciate what you have (the grass isn’t always greener somewhere else)
Coincidentally the main character in the next book is also named Petunia! This time, Petunia is a goose who never eats from her own dish or the grass on her side of the fence. She always eats from her friends’ dishes, or sticks her head through the fence to eat from the neighbor’s meadow. She wanted only what she didn’t have. One day, she decides to set out to taste the grass outside her yard because it looked so much better. She keeps trying the grass further and further away – getting warnings from friendly critters of the dangerous animals lurking about. But the grass keeps tasting the same, even as she gets to coveted Windy Hill which had looked from her yard like the best grass in the world. After a chase scene and a daring rescue from Noisy (her dog friend), she makes it back to her yard where the grass is the best she has ever tasted. Of course we can always look beyond our world and strive for the best – but it’s important to also value what we have. And it’s important to know that ‘other’ will often look so much better from afar, better than what we have but that is often a bit of a mirage.
Be honest and treat your friends well
We had a number of books starring Frances, a little badger. A Bargain for Frances tells the tale of Frances sharing her desire for a tea set with her friend Thelma who then swindles Frances into buying Thelma’s used tea set to go buy Frances’ coveted tea set – the one that is real made of real china with pictures in blue! Frances finds out, and then tricks Thelma into exchanging tea sets. When Thelma realizes what has happened, she calls Frances out. Frances says Thelma’s trickery was not nice either. They have to decide whether they should be careful, or whether they should be friends. They decide to be friends.
Get lost in a good story
I would be remiss to leave out the many Ezra Jack Keats books that filled my childhood! Our church library had quite a few, and my sister especially loved these! The little check-out cards (old-school library style!) listed “Sonja” over and over and over as she would borrow them week after week. A Snowy Day and Apartment 3 and Whistle for Willie and A Letter for Amy and Peter’s Chair. These books were legendary, great stories that instilled an appreciation for art, and taught me on a whole other level just how strongly words can make you actually feel, hear, smell.
In Fulghum’s book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, he says “It wasn’t in books. It wasn’t in a church. What I needed to know was out there in the world.” And this is true – the point of life is to live. Yet how much richer life can be – and how much more we can enrich the lives of those we touch – if we go into the world equipped with elemental truths, a solid foundation that can be applied to any complicated adult situation. How much better would our world be if everyone followed Fulghum’s #5 “Clean up your own mess” and #6 “Don’t take things that aren’t yours”?
Reading is a gift that I am so grateful my Mom shared with me, that I’m grateful to have shared with my kids (and continue to share!). I hope you can reflect fondly on some of your favorite childhood stories!
You are unique and you deserve to absolutely love your life! This is why I love working 1-on-1 and in small groups to help you find ways to create beautiful, dynamic balance in your life! If you are interested in a discovery session to learn about working together, please contact me.