In considering my philosophy, three questions arise: what do I believe; why do I believe it; how well do I practice it?
One of my fundamental beliefs is that success in life is measured not in material things but in character, and my idea of character is best expressed by St. Paul’s statement that,
The greatest thing in the world is love, which consists of the virtues of patience, kindness, generosity, humility, courtesy, unselfishness.
I believe that the purpose of my life should be to strive daily for this type of character and that there is a supreme power which I can use to aid me in this struggle, if I make way for it by freeing my mind of harmful thoughts. I believe that with these characteristics everything else falls into place, and one cannot help serving God and man. I also believe with Browning that all service ranks the same with God. Power for good is universal and is, therefore, in each one of us, no matter what our abilities may be. I find that these beliefs have come to me through the influence of people I have known and people who have left us a heritage in their writings.
In my home I learned that one should strive constantly to improve. My father used to say that there was no one so ignorant or so intellectual that he could not learn something from him. This possibility for influence is very real. I shall never forget a little old Irish maid in the hospital, whom when I protested her getting up early Sundays to do part of her work before church replied, “I should not be worthy of going to Mass if I neglected my duty.” Another time when things were difficult for me, she told me that since she did not know what to pray for, she’d just ask God to give me whatever I needed. Whether it was direct answer to prayer or the calmer state of mind her faith gave me, the difficulties dissolved.
From one friend in particular and from the physically handicapped patients and employees with whom I work, I have learned that happiness is not dependent on circumstance but on a state of mind I can control by my habits of thought. From then, as from Browning, I know that the common problem is not to fancy what were fair in life, provided it could be, but finding first what may be, then finding how to make it fair up to our means. In this daily struggle to make things fair, one of the most helpful tricks I have evolved is repeating favorite quotations while falling asleep and not awakening. This I learned as a student nurse when I observed that if patients are at peace when they go under anesthesia, they are calm when they come out and recover more rapidly. I find that when I use this trick it works; that I do not use it more is where I fail, for I firmly believe that in our daily lives of thought, word, and deed, we make our own heaven or hell.
After my father’s death, I found a small notebook in which he had written only this: “Look to this day for it is life, the very life of life. In its brief course lie all the varieties and realities of existence: the bliss of growth, the glory of action, the splendor of beauty. For yesterday is but a dream and tomorrow only a vision, but today, well lived, makes every yesterday a memory of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope.” This I believe.
“Success Is Measured in Character,” written by Mildred H. Maw, circa 1954. Part of the This I Believe Essay Collection found at www.thisibelieve.org, Copyright © 2005-2009, This I Believe, Inc. Reprinted with permission.