If Only These Walls Could Talk

When I was  a kid my grandparents had one of those framed, amusing poems you can buy at the drug store hung on a wall in the kitchen of their summer cabin. I must have passed it a million times since we all got together there for a few weeks each summer.

Once in a while I stopped to read it, because it had this funny drawing of a devil laughing and shaking hands with a bunch of people in, I assumed, hell.

The poem was called “Why Worry?” and it went something like this:

“There are only two things to worry about: Whether you’re sick or whether you’re well.

If you’re well, there’s nothing to worry about. If you’re sick, there are only two things to worry about: Whether you’ll get better or whether you’ll die.

If you get better there’s nothing to worry about. If you die there are only two things to worry about: Whether you go to heaven or whether you go to hell.

If you go to heaven, there’s nothing to worry about. And if you go to hell, you’ll be so busy shaking hands with old friends, you won’t have time to worry.” Hence, the devil shaking hands with all those smiling people.

Since I was a typical kid who liked to snoop around a little, it caught my attention. I figured it must have been important since my grandparents had taken the time to frame it and hang it up for all to see. The amazing thing is that here I am, decades older and still able to recite that poem verbatim, not that anyone would want me to.

But it sure says something about the staying power of words read over and over again when we are young. It really stuck in my head. So then when my kids were little I got to thinking: Why not put that fact to good use in my own house? Why not maximize the usefulness of my walls to implant some nuggets of wisdom that I wanted to see sink in to the consciousness of my own growing children? Great idea, no?

So I did. I have a few pearls of wisdom scattered throughout my house. One hangs on a wall at the top of the stairs. It’s a quote by Abraham Lincoln that my husband and I like. Embroidered on an an old-fashioned sampler are the words: “Whatever you are, be a good one.”

I figured that was a fine sentiment to work into the brains of my kidletts. And since they would be looking at that wall several times a day for years, we might as well give them something to notice and think about as they turned the corner into their rooms.

I hope they’ve given it a fraction of the amount of attention that I gave that silly poem at my grandparents’ cabin. Those words are rattling around somewhere in their heads and I like knowing that. Turns out that maybe the walls can talk after all.

What do yours say?

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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.

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