My mom is always spouting off little one liners. Gems of wisdom, she’d say. Others would refer to them as clichés. They span at least four generations. My mom learned them from her mom, who learned them from my great granddad, and now they are being passed on to me. Most of them are self-explanatory and easy to figure out. “Good things come to those who wait.” “All that glitters isn’t gold.” “Pretty is as pretty does.” Sometimes the phrase, “but ugly goes clear to the bone,” is added to the end of that one.
The one I like the best is “In order to have a friend, you’ve got to be one.” Its meaning is unhidden, it’s obvious and it clearly expresses my philosophy about friendship. If you want to have friends you’ve got to be friendly and approachable and demonstrate a willingness to meet new people. Once you’ve met, it’s important to express an interest in the details of the other person’s life and honestly listen to what they have to say. You need to use your words to uplift and inspire others, not to tear them down. It’s important that you look for the good in each individual and compliment it. In essence, in order to have friends, you’ve got to be the kind of friend you’d like to have.
I know someone who exemplifies these qualities better than anyone else. Her name is Bonnie. She’s a couple of years older than I am and I’ve always looked up to her. It seems everyone does. She’s really pretty but not in the dazzling Hollywood kind of way, more in the All American Girl sense. Bonnie has shiny blonde hair, tan skin from hours spent playing soccer and a beautiful smile. I’d say her smile is her hallmark. It’s not the fake plastic kind of smile you see in toothpaste commercial, it’s the real deal. It exudes happiness and is as effortless as it is irrepressible. She offers it to everyone she meets, like a gift. She seems to know virtually everybody – by name. Funny thing is after a smile and a hello she’ll usually ask how you are doing and the question is so genuine you end up telling her. Bonnie knows more things about more people because she’s a really good listener. She keeps confidences and never gossips. In fact, another one of her hallmark traits is that she always has a kind thing to say. I can’t remember hearing Bonnie say a negative thing about anyone or anything ever. You never leave an encounter with Bonnie without feeling better about yourself. You leave smiling and happier.
Sometimes I ask myself “Why is Bonnie so happy?” Is it because she has so many friends? Then it occurs to me, mom was right after all. It’s nice to be important but it’s more important to be nice.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.