“You are wasting your time.”

In this excerpt from Myra Scovel’s autobiography, The Chinese Ginger Jars ©1962, Brother Li has come to visit her husband as he recuperates from a gunshot wound inflicted by a drunken Japanese soldier during the war years:

Fred was amused, but he was looking very tired.

“One would think that you never had a serious moment,” I said, laughing. “Let’s go downstairs and have a cup of coffee. It’s time for Fred to have a nap.”

“Brother Li, you’ve made me feel like a new man,” said Fred. “Happiness is good medicine.”

“Happiness is my mission in life,” Brother Li replied as he rose to go.

“Happiness is my mission in life.” I thought of the words as he pedaled out of the front gate and I remembered the day Brother Li showed me the pair of shoes he was making for an old priest who was having trouble with his feet. He had explained his contrivings to make the shoes comfortable.

“You are wasting your time making shoes,” I said to him. “You would make a wonderful priest. Why didn’t you go on and study to become one?”

He had looked at me as if I were a child. “You do not understand,” he said. “I make shoes for God.”


Regrets, I’ve had a few…

Actor James Dean used to show up at a lot of the same parties as Sammy Davis Jr., and wanted to befriend him, but Sammy was enjoying his first blush of success and wrote him off as just another starry-eyed kid with dreams of stardom.  After seeing the movie Giant he realized how much talent Dean really had, and was looking forward to telling him so.  But:

When we got off (the stage) I saw Freddie Robbins standing in the wings– a buddy from New York, one of the first disc jockeys to play my records, when I’d needed it. I walked over to him, smiling.

“Great show, Sammy. Wonderful. Hey, Jimmy Dean just died.” I searched his face for a sign that it was a joke. “It just came over the air. Car crash. He was…”

I went into the dressing room and closed the door. Dave was standing in front of the radio, his face ashen, listening to the report of how it had happened.

I never got a chance to tell him. I never gave him the pleasure of hearing it. And he didn’t have that many people who told it to him.

They started the commercial. A jingle. I ripped the plug out of the socket and the sound died.

I sat down and looked at Dave. “We had him and all we did was brush him off. I did to him what I wouldn’t want anybody to do to me. I tolerated him. I treated him like a kook.”

“But he never knew that.”

“Of course he knew. He was a sensitive man. He felt everything. And I made jokes about him.”

How could I have judged a man before I knew what he was all about? Me, who’s suffered from prejudgment. Oh, God, I just hope– as corny as it sounds– I hope he knows I mean it, that I wish I’d said to him, “I know you were my friend and I wish I’d been your friend, too.”

After the second show, I borrowed a car and went for a drive by myself, circling through the winding road in the park, trying to shake the guilt that was ripping me like an iron claw. I’d been so busy being Charley Star that I hadn’t seen a guy who was reaching out to be my friend. Even on the hill when I could have said something— I could have yelled, “Hey, you were great”– but I’d wanted the pleasure of telling him just right.

Why don’t you tell someone you appreciate them while you still can?

Excerpted from Sammy Davis Jr.’s autobiography Yes I Can, ©1965.

What if?

“People died and it’s a horrible tragedy. My feelings move from shock and disbelief to going to the ‘what-ifs.’  What if I tried to reach out to him that last time I saw him? ‘Hey Mark, how are you doing?'”  ~Mark Roessler, neighbor of Austin bomber Mark Conditt (source)


One time a relative stopped by the house– I’ll call her “Kathy,” because that was her name– complaining that her life was seriously out of balance and she didn’t know what to do.

I suggested she sit quietly.

She immediately burst out into loud, sustained cackles, because the very idea of sitting quietly was so patently absurd to her.

We live in a world that never gives us a quiet moment. Cell phones, radios, television and movies, angry talk shows, gaudy billboards; they all seem to be conspiring to keep us distracted and occupied.

The pursuit of happiness is making us all miserable.

In the original draft of the Declaration of Independence, by the way, it was worded “the pursuit of property.” Americans have been brainwashed to believe those are the same things.

They aren’t.

Kathy continues to be miserable, drama and chaos surrounding her like the winds of a hurricane.

And I still believe if she would just sit still, she could change her life.

And I believe that if enough of us just sat still, we could start a revolution.

We could heal this planet.


“When we smile, the muscles around our mouth are stretched and relaxed, just like doing yoga. Smiling is mouth yoga. We release the tension from our face as we smile. Others who run into us notice it, even strangers, and are likely to smile back. It is a wonderful chain reaction that we can initiate, touching the joy in anyone we encounter. Smiling is an ambassador of goodwill.”

~This quote has been attributed to Thich Nhat Hanh, but I’ve been unable to find an original source.  The sentiment sounds like him, the phrasing does not.  Regardless of who said it, though, it’s a nice thought.

Ideas of Dignity and Generosity

We read Goodbye Mr. Chips by James Hilton, ©1934, when we were in the seventh grade, and it was wasted on us. In the autumn of life things resonate that have little meaning to those still in their spring.  His novella is really aimed at older people, who have lived a bit.

In this excerpt it has fallen on Mr. Chip’s shoulders to announce at the weekly church service the names of the alumni, his former students, who were killed that week in the first world war:

On Sundays in Chapel it was he who now read out the tragic list, and sometimes it was seen and heard that he was in tears over it. Well, why not, the School said; he was an old man; they might have despised anyone else for the weakness.

One day he got a letter from Switzerland, from friends there; it was heavily censored, but conveyed some news. On the following Sunday, after the names and biographies of old boys, he paused a moment and then added:–

“Those few of you who were here before the War will remember Max Staefel, the German master. He was in Germany, visiting his home, when war broke out. He was popular while he was here, and made many friends. Those who knew him will be sorry to hear that he was killed last week, on the Western Front.”

He was a little pale when he sat down afterward, aware that he had done something unusual. He had consulted nobody about it, anyhow; no one else could be blamed. Later, outside the Chapel, he heard an argument:–

“On the Western Front, Chips said. Does that mean he was fighting for the Germans?”

“I suppose it does.”

“Seems funny, then, to read his name out with all the others. After all, he was an enemy.”

“Oh, just one of Chips’s ideas, I expect. The old boy still has ’em.”

Chips, in his room again, was not displeased by the comment. Yes, he still had ’em– those ideas of dignity and generosity that were becoming increasingly rare in a frantic world.

Goodbye Mr. Chips is in the public domain in most of the world, but not the United States.  If you live outside of the United States, you can download a free copy HERE.