Dorothy Harris

Good advice makes a difference

Dorothy L. Harris

In my life, I've been blessed to cross paths with intriguing people who seem to possess uncommon wisdom. I try to learn all I can from them because their nuggets of knowledge are very helpful in this thing called life.

My father, a man who always had a quick retort handy, would respond to any request he found ridiculous with, "Take a hike son." Keep in mind he was the dad of two girls, born six years apart. There were no boys in the house, but this statement seemed suitable to him anyway. When told to "take a hike," I knew whatever I was trying to slip past him had been stopped in its tracks. In my adult life, I still find his wisdom very appropriate because when life gets crazy, a hike in the woods clears the mind and soothes the spirit.

Another wise man I had the honor to know was Dr. Valese, a veterinarian I worked for before relocating to Florida long ago. Dr. Valese always used to say, "If you can still smell it, it's not clean." Considering the nature of our work, it's obvious why he would say this, and it is so true. Once something has been completely cleaned up, the odor disappears. I've found this applicable to nearly every cleaning effort I've had to make, whether for myself or for my employer. If I can still smell something, more elbow grease is required. When I was a park ranger, this was a skill I counted on and used frequently.

Mr. Becker, a science teacher, is another wise man whose words have traveled with me over the years. He'd always remind us students to "know your limitations." As a teen, I thought this was ridiculous and told him so. He'd just chuckle and say, "Listen kiddo, you need to know your limitations and you'd better learn this sooner than later." As I matured and got some life under my belt, I came to realize just how wise he was. An overachiever by nature, I tend not just to bite off more than I can chew, but to take extra helpings to work on later. I spent a lot of years doing everything and more, just because I didn't know my own limitations.

I thought of limits as a bad thing, but clearly, they are a blessing. Kind of like hedges, whether you are talking about the ones your neighbors have or the ones put in your life to protect you. Knowing where the line is and how not to cross it is an important part of life and keeps you sane.

Another nugget of truth I've been blessed with is a question posed by a pastor I knew. He'd ask, "Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?" I know at first this sounds counter-intuitive, but trust me if you keep this in mind, you'll find yourself pulling it out often. Most of the time, being right doesn't matter as much as maintaining the relationship or keeping a customer. It helps you see through the haze of conflict to the heart of the matter.

In addition to these goodies, I'm trying to pass on to my daughter that life is about participation, not perfection. It can be defeating to exhaust oneself trying to do everything perfect, when in the real world, it's all about getting out there and trying.

Are there some words of wisdom you've been given? Make sure you share them with others. You just might change someone's life.