In our family kitchen, a poster has hung for nearly three decades of Robert Lee Fulghum, it has been almost a creed in part of what we would want to instill in our generational lineage. It is simplistic, yet poignant, in it’s truthful statements of life. It has caught folks attention over the years, once in its well framed manner, now with it’s frayed edges, it hangs as a tradition somewhat. The latest one to take in its wisdom, was of a ten year old girl who has been staying some this summer, who then asked some deep questions of it’s lines, that left my thoughts in a quandary even still after seeing its daily life reminders. Fulghum, now past eighty hailed from Waco Texas, received his Bachelor of Divinity at Starr King in l961 and published upward a dozen books, his most known being, "All I Ever Needed to Know I learned in Kindergarten." It was on the best seller list for over two years and has sold over 17 million copies, with his quote from this particular book being even more known to be published.
Fulghum’s philosophy of life, might be a collage effect as he is not a cookie cutter version, as he has been a mirage of hats. A cowboy, a folksinger, IBM salesman, a bartender, drawing instructor, besides a parish minister and writer. This may be why he can relate to all his audience that is in broad range, from the years that have hailed him as such a soulful philosopher. Those who often sit in lofty scholarly towers, who expel their own version of theological dissertations, are often not appealing to most, Fulghum’s candor instead is known to be refreshing.
The very words that ring out from his bestseller "All I really need to know l learned in Kindergarten" are simplistic but have been used from graduations to motivational seminars due to their foundational truths. He writes as such, "Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the sandpile at Sunday School, these are the things I learned:
Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. Wash your hands before you eat. Flush. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. Live a balanced life-learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some. Take a nap every afternoon. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together" ( Fulghum, 1989) This excerpt stands to be excellent advice for all of us in this day and age, does it not? It is a bit tumultuous out there in this year of 2020, we all might agree. We are not sure how exactly to color in the lines and we are in uncharted territory we have never navigated through. Our family and friends are the ones we look to for comfort and security, even if it has been difficult to be close by.
The author shares in his short story collection, "The world does not need tourists who ride by in a bus clucking their tongues. The world as it is needs those who will love it enough to change it, with what they have, where they are." Fulghum’s quote is so very true, in that we often dismiss ourselves that we are not able to make a difference in our corner of the world, but that is not the case. Lip-service, and "armchair quarterbacks," is most generally the case for our society, in that there is more talk and less activity in making positive changes. It is often that the ones who have the least, do the most in their own zip codes. Such is the case of those in these times, the ones who quietly do for others when no one is looking, making strides for putting things back together when others leave them a mess. We most definitely need those kinds of folk right now to bring back some type of semblance of order do we not?
If we all could live a bit more like Fulghum writes and take those kindergarten sentiments into our homes, work places, governments offices and daily interactions, it just might make things work out better for everyone involved.
The most important thing is so true what he shared we all need to remember in this very chaotic world we are living in, "Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you." What lessons in life are we teaching them folks?
Thoughts from the countryside bench