The habits that seem to really stick—whether for celebrities or just plain ordinary folks—often come from lessons learned from parents, grandparents, or other elders during one’s formative years.
I’m no different. I can’t believe the dumb things that I do or don’t do because of lessons so ingrained in who I’ve become:
- I try hard not to cry in front of people because I still remember hearing, “No, no, no, no, crying will make you ugly!”
- I won’t keep the best for myself and leave the rest for everybody else, ever since being told when I turned five, “All right, if you don’t want the other children to have any of the flowers, you’re going to have to eat every last one of them yourself.” What seemed like a victory was anything but one as I can still taste the bitterness of the dye in the pretty flowers that were on my birthday cake. Perhaps in part because of this experience, I didn’t grow up selfish.
- I try not to get in physical fights because my Daddy warned me that if I lost the fight, he would kill me himself.
- I never assume that I can just take something without asking permission because I remember clearly this warning: “Don’t even take a straw out of a broom that does not belong to you.”
- After Miss Alice, our neighbor, whipped her boys, Jesse and Curtis, and my Grandmother looked for some green twigs that wouldn’t break when she switched my skinny little legs, I learned not to show little boys what was in my underpants and I didn’t want to see what was in theirs.
- A constant reminder of the need to secure my own financial security came from my mother when she would sing: “Mama may have, Papa may have, but God bless the child that’s got his own.”
- It’s not easy to just sit and relax without getting up every few minutes to do something because my Grandmother would say to my Grandfather: “There is always something to do, even if it’s just nailing a nail into the wall and pulling it out.”
As anyone can see, it’s not the profundity of these lessons that make them stick. For me, it was the timing—the teachable moment.