My grandmother kept books by her bed and piled all around her apartment. They were books by Goethe and Thomas Mann and I did not want to read them. The exceptions that drew my interest were Ellery Queen and Readers Digest and the books of aphorisms. I was drawn to the aphorisms, which could fill a few minutes here and there. Without noticing, from these books I learned the names and ideals of great statesmen. A penny saved is a penny earned. Your word is your bond. When they came for me, there was no one left to stand up for me. To thine own self be true. I did not at first realize the power these quotes held for my grandmother and mother. But now I do. The aphorisms were about honor, trust, tolerance, excellence, striving, and thrift. My mother and grandmother held these values close in spite of tremendous loss and disappointment in their statesmen. When I became a mother, I found myself quoting them to my children. Save for a rainy day. Treat others as you would be treated. Your word is your bond. I somehow passed on to my children not just the quotes, but also the values. How did this happen? They probably have never seen a book of aphorisms. They probably have not heard of many of the authors’ names. But they have benefited from their eloquence and deeply held values. As much as “a picture is worth a thousand words,” a time-tested aphorism creates a picture of a world worth striving to create. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” I know it is true. I read it in a book of aphorisms.
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