”How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.” — George Washington Carver

At an Arbor Day Celebration by the Galveston Island Tree Conservancy, the keynote speaker was one of my local heroes, William Johnson. He is the long-time director of the local A&M Galveston County Extension for Horticulture and a regular contributor to these pages. He brings practical weekly expertise to all of us who garden, have plants, trees, and green, growing things. Johnson is a gifted and knowledgeable speaker, and entertaining to boot. While regaling us with pearls of plant wisdom, he also gave us some important life wisdom that I would like to pass on.

In part of Johnson’s talk, he expounded on principles from the 1980s classic book, “All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten: Uncommon Thoughts on Common Things,” by Robert Fulghum. I much enjoyed this book when it first came out. Fulghum’s lessons promote mental, social, spiritual, environmental, civil, familial, and public health. They remain as true and relevant today as they were in the 1980s.

Here’s all we need to know:

1. Share everything.

2. Play fair.

3. Don’t hit people.

4. Put things back where you found them.

5. Clean up your own mess.

6. Don’t take things that aren’t yours.

7. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.

8. Wash your hands before you eat.

9. Flush.

10. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

11. Live a balanced life — learn some and think some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work every day some.

12. Take a nap every afternoon.

13. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.

14. 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.

15. Goldfish, hamsters, white mice, and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup — they all die. So do we.

16. And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned — the biggest word of all — look.

The imbedded cultural ethos in these simple — but cunningly clever — aphorisms is immense. Play with them this week and beyond and notice how they make you a better and happier person. Notice how they positively influence those around you, or at least don’t introduce conflict and disharmony. Practice them. Teach them to your children, grandchildren, students, adult family members, friends, colleagues, and maybe even members of the other political party.

If things are truly true, they’re right for me and you. Oh, by the way, take some time to reacquaint yourself with that other contemporary child and life philosopher king, Dr. Seuss.

“And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.” — Isaiah 11:6

Dr. Victor S. Sierpina is the WD and Laura Nell Nicholson Family Professor of Integrative Medicine and Professor of Family Medicine at UTMB.

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