Sayings pithy guidelines to living life

Grant McGee: Local Columnist

You’ve seen those sayings on church signs and billboards, haven’t you? Those little bits of wisdom that make you release the steering wheel to reach for a pen and a scrap of paper to write them down, much to the concern of your fellow motorists?

I got to thinking about this the other day passing by Kingswood United Methodist Church on north Main.
“Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous,” proclaimed the church’s sign.

I smiled at that one. It goes along with a similar saying: “The Lord works in mysterious ways.” I can’t remember where I first heard that one. Maybe it was my grandmother. She used to sit in her easy chair, smoking a filter-less Raleigh cigarette like she had since she was 12, spouting off tales of her life, her thoughts on the world.

“The weather’s gettin’ stranger,” she would say, “’cos those moon rockets are puttin’ holes in the sky.”

She also liked to share old sayings: “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear,” or “A whistlin’ girl and a crowin’ hen both come to the same bad end.”

I started jotting down sayings in 1989. I was at a point in life looking for some direction. Church-sign sayings and other truisms seemed to be billboards on life’s highway.

“Words are like sparrows — once set free they cannot be called back.”

That’s the first one I wrote down. I thought of all the times I’d said things I regretted. My mind is full of the facial reactions I’ve gotten from friends, relatives and ex-wives over things my mouth said before my brain had time to review them.

The “sparrows” saying would surface again in my life when I was truck driving. My co-driver Frank, newly arrived from the Caribbean isle of Trinidad, once proclaimed: “There are four things that cannot be called back: Spoken word, sparrow, shot arrow and…” I didn’t write down what Frank said so I can’t remember the fourth thing.

There was a saying off a church sign in Albuquerque: “First rule for relationships: Give more, expect less.”

“Ah,” I thought to myself, “this is where I went wrong in my relationships.” It was years later, after earnestly giving this saying a try in my life, I realized what the sign didn’t have space to include was “And you both need to know this saying.”

These days, The Lady of the House sends me a daily quotation. If they seem particularly good food for the soul I print them out and tack them on the wall. Some of them include:

* You can’t do anything about the length of your life, but you can do something about its width and depth. — H.L. Mencken

* There is a field beyond all notions of right and wrong. Come, meet me there. — Rumi

* No matter how far you’ve gone down a wrong road, turn back. — Turkish proverb

* Lower your voice and strengthen your argument. — Lebanese proverb

* I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made. — Franklin D. Roosevelt

* A man is not old until his regrets take the place of dreams. —Yiddish proverb

Long ago and far away I made up my own truism for life: “Act young while you can. You have the rest of your life to be old.”

Grant McGee hosts the weekday morning show on KTQM-FM in Clovis. Contact him at: