COMMENTARY 959.5: Give Yourself the Gift of Gratitude

For some, Thanksgiving is the beginning of a holiday season filled with joy and happiness at the prospect of spending time with family. For others, it’s a sadder time blemished by bad memories or dread. Some people see their lives filled with abundant blessings and find thankfulness easy and natural; others are so pre-occupied with tending to past wounds or … Read More

COMMENTARY 959.4: Thanking Your Parents on Thanksgiving

As we approach Thanksgiving Day, I hope you will think about your parents with your most gentle and generous thoughts and be thankful. Even if you didn’t have ideal parents or a perfect home life, if either or both of your parents are still with you, make an effort to experience and express genuine gratitude. It’s natural to take for granted what … Read More

COMMENTARY 958.3: We Shape Our Own Character

There’s no doubt that our character has a profound effect on our future. What we must remember, however, is not merely how powerful character is in influencing our destiny, but how powerful we are in shaping our own character and, therefore, our own destiny. Character may determine our fate, but character is not determined by fate. It’s a common mistake … Read More

COMMENTARY 957.4: The Golden Rule as the Road of Honor

Five hundred years before the birth of Christ, Confucius was asked, “Is there one word that may serve as a rule of practice for all one’s life?” He answered, “Reciprocity. What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.” This basic principle, now called the Golden Rule, can be found in every major religion and philosophy. … Read More

COMMENTARY 954.3: The Power of Kindness

I’ve mentioned before that, despite my great admiration for people who are instinctively and consistently kind, kindness does not come naturally to me. Yet the older I get, the more I agree with Abraham Heschel, who said, “When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people.” Henry James was more emphatic when … Read More

COMMENTARY 953.1: The Ultimate Gift

Jimmy was nine when his mom told him his little sister was sick and would die if she didn’t get a blood transfusion – and Jimmy was one of the only people in the world who had the rare blood type needed. She asked if he would be willing to let the doctors give some of his blood to his … Read More

COMMENTARY 949.5: The Twists and Turns of Life

Years ago, Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben introduced the New Year rituals of Rosh Hashanah by holding up a long, coiled ram’s horn. Pointing out the twists and turns, he used the shofar as a metaphor for life. “No one’s life,” he said, “is straight and predictable.” Twists, dips and bends, as well as ups and downs are inevitable. How we … Read More

COMMENTARY 949.3: “This Is My Dad, Sam Burke”

Ann’s father, Sam Burke, was in the last stages of cancer, and his needs had gone beyond what she could provide at home. She was distraught at the thought of placing him in a convalescent home. The check-in process confirmed her worst fears. Administrators, nurses, and doctors who seemed bothered, bored, or burned out quickly transformed Sam Burke into just … Read More

COMMENTARY 948.3: Too Poor to Give

When Teresa, a widow with four young children, saw a notice that members of her church would gather to deliver presents and food to a needy family, she took $10 out of her savings jar and bought the ingredients to make three dozen cookies. She got to the church parking lot just in time to join a convoy going to … Read More

COMMENTARY 948.1: Moving Beyond 9/11

Historic moments - childs reflection candles

I’ve become increasingly ambivalent about the way we commemorate the dark days and months that began on September 11th, 2001. Each year the memories and all the feelings they evoke are less vivid. Thus, the news articles, commentaries and TV specials about the 9/11 attacks serve as important reminders, not only of the immeasurable loss of life and the permanent … Read More

COMMENTARY 946.5: If You Were Arrested for Kindness

If you were arrested for kindness, would there be enough evidence to convict you? Some people cheer up a room by entering it, others by leaving it. What do you bring to your interactions with workmates, friends, and family? Is it encouragement, optimism, or kind words? Or is it pessimism, criticism, or cynicism? People often forget what we say and … Read More


R – E – S – P – E – C – T. Aretha Franklin reminded us how it’s spelled, but a lot of us need coaching on how to show it. In both personal and political relationships the failure to treat each other with respect is generating incivility, contempt and violence. There’s an important distinction between respecting a person … Read More

Life is short. Smile as often as you can – then keep smiling.

1 Life is short - smile

“Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.” Mother Teresa. CHARACTER COUNTS! ( focuses on creating a positive school climate where children are both physically and emotionally safe, where they feel they are accepted and valued and where they feel they belong. One of the most effective ways … Read More

COMMENTARY 944.2: Will, Fern, and the Power of Encouragement

Two frogs named Will and Fern fell into a deep pit together. At first, they thought it would be easy to jump out. But after lots of failed attempts they cried for help and a crowd of animals gathered around the pit. Everyone agreed it was hopeless so they urged Will and Fern to accept their fate. The harder the … Read More

Can Prolonging Life Be a Mistake? Who Are You to Judge? (943.5)

Perseverance - yellow flower sunlight

Revised 8/8/15 I once heard a story about an emergency medical technician I’ll call Jake who was summoned to help an unconscious woman. When he arrived, she had no pulse. From her color and dilated eyes, he could tell she’d suffered serious brain damage. Still, he did his job exceptionally well, trying over and over to restart her heart. She … Read More

COMMENTARY 941.1: Box Full of Love

Todd was a sadly quiet eleven-year-old struggling to adjust to the death of his mother. His father left long ago and he was living with an aunt who made it known that she resented the responsibility. On several occasions, Sheryl, the boy’s teacher, heard the aunt tell Todd, “If it weren’t for my generosity you would be a homeless orphan.” … Read More

COMMENTARY 940.4: Mental Sunshine and Flowers

Dave had to undergo painful throat surgery. Since he’s not a young man and makes his living as a professional speaker, the experience was frightening and traumatic. He told me his surgeon was skilled and the hospital workers were competent, but the cold indifference of the parade of nurses and doctors who came in and out of his room was … Read More

COMMENTARY 940.1: The Ethics of Gay Rights and Same-Sex Marriage

(This is one of those commentaries that evokes passionate response and, sadly, a few people will disagree so strongly that they decide to cut me out of their lives by cancelling their newsletter subscription or putting me on the “block sender” list. I realize the issue of same-sex marriage is only one aspect of the much broader issue of how … Read More

COMMENTARY 937.5: A Person of Character

Let’s face it, it’s not easy to become a person of character. It takes a good heart, but it also requires wisdom to know right from wrong and the discipline to do right even when it’s costly, inconvenient or difficult. Becoming a person of character is a lifelong quest to be better. A person of character values honesty and integrity … Read More

COMMENTARY 936.2: Refuse to Be Afraid

Tim Wrightman, a former All-American UCLA football player, tells a story about how, as a rookie lineman in the National Football League, he was up against the legendary pass rusher Lawrence Taylor. Taylor was not only physically powerful and uncommonly quick but a master at verbal intimidation. Looking young Tim in the eye, he said, “Sonny, get ready. I’m going … Read More

COMMENTARY 935.2: Saying the Right Thing

When someone you care about is suffering greatly, what’s the right thing to say to make him or her feel better? There are all sorts of traumas that can send us to the darkest dungeons of despair – the death of a loved one, being raped, getting a divorce, losing a limb, seeing a child sent to jail or on … Read More

COMMENTARY 933.4: Slow Dance

I once heard the chairman and CEO of a huge public company tell a roomful of ambitious, hardworking, dedicated executives that if he had to do it all over again, he would have spent more time with his family. That’s not news, but to Type-A personalities, it’s easier said than done. David L. Weatherford’s poem “Slow Dance” sends the message … Read More

COMMENTARY 933.3: Bridge Builder

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” In a world increasingly dominated by unapologetic selfishness, this idea may seem quaint and outdated. Yet, for those who have a grand vision of their purpose and value, striving to be of service is not only a noble thing to do, it’s … Read More

COMMENTARY 932.1: Changing Self-Limiting Beliefs and Bad Behavior

Shavonne, a third-grade teacher, was at the end of her rope with disciplinary problems, but she wasn’t enthusiastic when she was told that her school had adopted the CHARACTER COUNTS! program. Now she was expected to explicitly seek to instill and enhance in her students core ethical values like honesty, respect, and responsibility, and to help them develop positive social … Read More

COMMENTARY 924.5: Things Are Just Things

Years ago, a listener told me her mom died leaving only a general will and a house full of personal items with sentimental and, in some cases, significant financial value. My listener said tensions were building among her and her two sisters as they approached the problem of allocating their mom’s stuff. Each sister had different and conflicting expectations. The … Read More

COMMENTARY 924.2: Tell Someone They’re Valued

The students at Sandy’s high school were badly shaken by the news that a classmate had killed himself. The suicide note said, “It’s hard to live when nobody cares if you die.” Glen, a teacher, realized this was a teachable moment about the importance of making people feel valued. He asked the class to imagine they were about to die … Read More

COMMENTARY 923.2: Motive, Tact, Tone, Timing

Trustworthiness is essential to good relationships, and honesty is essential to trustworthiness. Being honest isn’t simply telling the truth, though. It’s also being sincere and forthright. Thus, it’s just as dishonest to deceive someone by half-truths or silence as it is to lie. But what if honesty requires us to volunteer information that could be damaging or hurtful? For example, … Read More

COMMENTARY 922.4: A Parent’s Love for the Family Treasure

There are all kinds of love. The passionate romantic love immortalized and often fantasized by poets and novelists; Platonic love among friends, the love of humanity preached by missionaries and ministers, the love of country, and even the love of our work. I’ve been fortunate to have experienced all of these forms but none has impressed me more than the deep, enduring … Read More

COMMENTARY 922.2: Unkind Words Are Weapons

With four teenage daughters, I frequently find myself correcting, disciplining, or simply protesting unnecessary and unkind comments certain to anger or wound a sister and evoke counterattacks that fill the air with nastiness. Hoping to get them to think before they speak in the future, I often ask, “What did you expect to accomplish by that remark?” and “Did it … Read More

COMMENTARY 921.5: Courtesy Is Kindness in Action

As a society we have become almost obsessed with identifying and asserting our rights – to think, say, and do what we want. That’s not surprising, given the history of our country and the prominent role the Constitution and Bill of Rights have played in shaping our culture. We have a right to be unkind, thoughtless, and disrespectful — but … Read More