From the back seat, Reese said, "Nobody ever writes me letters."
I called back to him, "Well, do you ever write anyone else letters?"
"No," he said. "Because nobody writes me any letters."
I could see the cyclical logic machine firing up, so I said, "Let me tell you about the most important rule of living there is. If you live your life by this rule, you'll be much happier. It's called the golden rule, which is: 'Treat other people as you would like to be treated.' Don't wait for other people to write you letters. Write letters for other people, and they'll return the favor."
By the time we left for school this morning, Reese had already finished writing four letters. And knowing Reese, he'll probably compile a list of other people to write today. Instead of focusing on what he doesn't have, Reese now has a plan for making himself and other people happy.
It's easy to forget (or dismiss) this rule as we age. Sometimes the things we want seem so complicated that we think the golden rule is no longer applicable--or that we need more complicated ways of handling our problems. However, I've found again and again throughout my life that simplifying things always makes me happier, and that using the golden rule makes me happier too. Plus, it tends to make others around me feel better.
Do you want those around you to be nicer to you? Then be nice to them. Say "please" and "thank you." Throw in a "you rock" from time to time. Don't wait for someone else to make the first move, because that could get both of you locked into a pattern of focusing on how the other person is not being nice or polite.
And what do you do if your use of the golden rule doesn't change some people around you? Keep applying the golden rule. After all, the golden rule is not to "treat others as you'd like to be treated--unless they don't treat you the same in return." No, keep practicing the golden rule. Everyone has different levels of defense layers (and yes, some people will just never change), so some people will respond immediately to your good attitude. Others will take time. But it's not just about the people around you. Applying the golden rule makes you feel better.
Just look at Reese who went from disappointed to filled with purpose. That's how we can all be.
Follow me on Twitter @robertleebrewer
Do you want to receive something in the mail? Why not subscribe to a magazine? Here are some of my favorites:
- National Geographic. This magazine is always loaded with interesting, well-researched stories. Plus, the images are always great!
- Writer's Digest. Yes, I'm a senior content editor in the Writer's Digest Writing Community, but beyond that, this magazine is wonderful because of Jessica Strawser's vision and commitment to the title. Believe me, there was a time when I worked here that I never recommended it to others.
- Runner's World. I'm (sometimes) a runner, and this magazine is always filled with inspiring articles and great advice for form, diet, and gear.
- Poets & Writers. Yes, another writing magazine. After all, I'm a writer and a poet.
- Parents. With four boys (and a fifth child on the way), you better believe this is an important magazine in the Brewer household.