Sunday, September 4, 2011

Three Useful Phrases in Life

After a long sojourn, Lavender Country is back today to share with you the following passage adapted from a convocation speech by communications professor, and now president of The University of Southern Mississippi, Martha Dunagin Saunders:

In the Department of Communication Arts we spend a great deal of time thinking and talking about words—the meaning of words, the persuasive value of words, the ethical implications of words and, generally, the impact of words as they are delivered in messages among people. Yet the most important messages that humans deliver to one another are usually expressed in very simple terms. Today, I share with you three three-word phrases that I have found useful in my life.

The first three-word phrase I’ve found useful in life is this: I’ll be there. Have you ever thought about what a balm those three words can create?

I’ll be there. If you’ve ever had to call for a plumber over a weekend you know how really good these words can feel. Or if you’ve been stranded on the road with car trouble and used your last quarter to call a friend, you know how good those words can be. Think about them:
“Grandma, I’m graduating in August!” I’ll be there.
“Roommate, I’m stuck at the office and can’t get to the airport to meet my sister!” I’ll be there.
“Mom, the baby cries all night and if I don’t get some sleep I’ll perish!” I’ll be

Recently I was talking with a local business person who is occasionally in a position to hire UWF graduates, and she told me the single most impressive thing a job candidate can do is to demonstrate a real interest in the well-being of that business. Someone who will help further the objectives of that organization, whether or not he or she is “on the clock” is going to be a valuable person. In other words, be somebody who will be there.

One of my favorite stories about someone who knew how to “be there” is told of Elizabeth, the Queen Mother of England, who was asked whether the little princesses (Elizabeth and Margaret Rose) would leave England after the Blitz of 1940. The queen replied:
“The children will not leave England unless I do. I shall not leave unless their father does, and the king will not leave the country in any circumstances whatever.” I’ll be there.

The second three-word phrase I want to present to you is perhaps the hardest to learn to say—I know it was for me and sometimes still is. That is, maybe you’re right.

Think about it. If more people were to learn to say maybe you’re right the marriage counselors would be out of business and, with a little luck, the gun shops. I know from experience it can have a disarming effect on an opponent in an argument. In fact, one of my lawyer friends uses it often in his closing remarks—and he is a very successful lawyer. Maybe you’re right.

It has been my experience that when we get so hung up on getting our own way that we will not concede on any point, we are doing ourselves a real disservice. Make life a little easier on yourself. Remember the old saying—“There are a hundred ways to skin a cat—and every single one of them is right.” Maybe you’re right.

The third phrase I want to introduce to you I must have heard a thousand times when I was a little girl. Whenever I was faced with a hard decision I would turn to my caregiver and ask what I should do. Her response was always the same three-letter
word phrase—“Your heart knows”—then she would go on about what she was doing.

“My heart knows?” I would think to myself. “What’s that supposed to mean? I
need advice here. I need for you to tell me what to do.”
She would just smile and say, “Your heart knows, honey, your heart knows.”
But as I was an imperious child, I would throw my hand on my hip and say,
“Maybe so, but my heart isn’t talking!”
To this she would respond—“Learn to listen.”

This brings me to the point of my speech. You know, life doesn’t come in the form of a degree plan. There’s no Great Advisor out there who will give you a checklist and say, “Do these things and you’ll earn your degree in ‘life.’”

To some extent, the page is blank now. You may have a rough outline of where you’re headed, but I can assure you, you won’t get there without having to make some tough decisions—and decision making is never easy.  You may be able to find people to suggest what you should do, but for the most part, no one will be willing to accept the responsibility for your mistakes. You’ll have to make your own choices.

My advice to you today is to learn to listen to your heart. The psychologists call this “turning into our subconscious.” Spiritual leaders call it “turning to a higher power.” Whatever you call it, there is an ability in each of you to find the right answers for your life. It’s there and it’s a powerful gift that all the education or degrees in the world can’t acquire for you. You’ve had it all along—now, you’re going to have to use it. In “The Bending of the Bough,” George Moore wrote: “The difficulty in life is the
choice.” Choose well.

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