This I Believe

Stephanie - Poughkeepsie, New York
Entered on August 2, 2007

At age thirteen I adopted my Three-Fold Philosophy of Life: Be Nice, Drink Milk, and Brush Your Teeth.

I announced it to my friend Bear one summer afternoon as we dangled our legs from the tree house high in the pines of his backyard. He laughed and repeated it back like a drill sergeant. “Be nice! Drink milk! Brush your teeth!” It was my first assertion of a faith uniquely my own.

I shared my Three-Fold Philosophy of Life with my step-father, John. At the time, our family was heavily involved in the born again Christian church, every aspect of our lives held under the scrutiny of Biblical law. For John, I adapted my philosophy a bit, employing spiritual metaphor. “Be Nice means do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” I explained. “Drink Milk means you should nourish your spirit with the manna of the Holy Ghost. And Brush Your Teeth reminds us to take care of our bodies, for they are the temples of the Lord.”

John was very impressed.

The truth was, I adopted the credo Be Nice out of loneliness and a desperate need for people to like me. I vowed to Drink Milk because our family was so poor we ate leftover vending machine food donated to us by the church. I became obsessed with brushing my teeth after developing gum disease as a result of poor nutrition.

I left behind those born again beliefs years ago, and I no longer drink milk, having developed a lactose intolerance. Yet while the tenants of my Philosophy may have changed, the spirit remains the same. I do my best to be nice to give to the world and share my gratitude at each new day, hoping not only for love in return but to transform myself through the giving. I nourish myself with healthy food for mind, body, and spirit. And, yes, I brush my teeth, but more importantly, I focus on clearing my mind and soul of negative emotions that no longer serve me.

There are lots of ways to cope with the hardships of life. I could have numbed myself through an unhappy childhood with alcohol or drugs; I could have fostered resentments against those who had more than me. But I believe life is about choice. Whatever life hands me, I should embrace it and use it to my advantage, cultivating beliefs that encourage vitality and health. I believe this choice is a gift to the world, and to myself.