In my 20s, when I was struggling to learn to write, a friend said to me, “Walter, you quote too many people; why don’t you tell us what you think.”
Well, 60 years later, I am still trying to learn to write but my friend was right. Early on, I tried to substantiate every observation with a quote from some famous person.
I still love memorable quotes, especially those I may use to spin an important truth. An example is one attributed to Mark Twain: “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” So much truth packaged in 14 words!
Like Twain, Churchill left us some splendid quotes like this one: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. If you are going through hell, keep going.” Words that inspire perseverance!
The trouble will quoting people is that there is always someone who will rain on your parade by informing you the words were not original with the person you cited. One reader apprised me that Twain’s “kindness” quotation originated with Christian Bovee. I checked it; he was correct. Bovee and Twain were contemporaries, both authors. However, Twain did edit and improve Bovee’s statement.
I had my Twain “error” in mind when I decided to share an awe-inspiring quotation by Mother Teresa titled “Do It Anyway.” So I checked. Sure enough, the author of this stirring poem was Kent Keith, not Saint Teresa. Keith, like Bovee with Twain, was a contemporary of Mother Teresa.
Unfortunately for Kent, his poem is usually attributed to Teresa. No matter who wrote it, this quote offers advice we all need to heed, and it sounds like something Mother Teresa may have said:
“People are often unreasonable and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are honest, people may cheat you.
Be honest anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight.
If you find happiness, people may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough.
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.”
While I am quoting famous people, I shall close with words attributed to Mother Teresa’s best friend whose name you will no doubt easily recall: “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”
And that, my friends, is a quote more to obey than to admire! If we are wise, those words will affect our daily behavior in a world that pays more attention to famous people than to the God who created us to love one another.
Walter Albritton is a Methodist minister and writes a column for the Opelika-Auburn News. Contact him at email@example.com.