Life’s little lessons

On three occasions, I’ve been taught or reminded that showing up and doing your best comprises 85% — or better — of life.

During grade school, we had to memorize poems.  On one occasion, the teacher assigned to me the poem, “Be the Best of Whatever You Are”.  I still remember most of it, but here’s the entire piece:

Be The Best of Whatever You Are
by Douglas Malloch

If you can’t be a pine on the top of the hill
Be a scrub in the valley–but be
The best little scrub by the side of the rill;
Be a bush if you can’t be a tree.

If you can’t be a bush be a bit of the grass,
And some highway some happier make;
If you can’t be a muskie then just be a bass–
But the liveliest bass in the lake!

We can’t all be captains, we’ve got to be crew,
There’s something for all of us here.
There’s big work to do and there’s lesser to do,
And the task we must do is the near.

If you can’t be a highway then just be a trail,
If you can’t be the sun be a star;
It isn’t by size that you win or you fail–
Be the best of whatever you are!

I know, I know — it’s kind of hokey but I was in kindergarten.  I vividly recall the vibrations of my sing-song cadence.  “If you CAN’T be a BUSH be a BIT of the GRASS. . .”

In my post-college days, I worked as a paralegal for Legal Services of Eastern Missouri.  I assisted their lobbyist, Pat Martin, with her efforts to secure passage of legislation which impacted our client base.

One afternoon, we hung around the gallery watching floor debate.  I kept resting my legs on the brass railing. Just as frequently, a guard admonished me.  I turned to Pat and groused about his chiding.  Why does he keep bothering me, I whined.  Pat observed, If your job was to tell people to keep their feet off a railing, wouldn’t you do it to the best of your ability, as often as needed?

I turned away, chastened, and moved my feet off the man’s domain.

I learned that lesson again yesterday, when I unpacked my groceries.  A little yellow card fluttered to the ground as I folded the bag.  I lifted it from the floor and studied the writing.  I smiled.

Be the best of whatever you are.

It’s the twenty-ninth day of the forty-seventh month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

One thought on “Life’s little lessons

  1. Jane

    Oooooh! Both my dad and my maternal grandfather LOVED that poem. Brought back some wonderful memories. Smiling . . . Thanks!


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