Back in 1988, Robert Fulghum came out with a slim book called All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. It was a collection of this Unitarian minister’s observations gleaned throughout his life. But the book wasn’t a heady compost of sage advice based on decades of experience; rather, approaching the world through the eyes of a child.
I sneered and chuckled the first time I read that book. The sentimentality of his words oozed slowly like warm maple syrup spreading across a stack of homemade pancakes. I was amused by his attempt to boil this complex world down into a rivulet of simplistic solutions. Sure, it made for genial suggestions and would fit nicely into Mister Rogers’ neighborhood, but not the real world.
Here’s what Fulghum wrote:
All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand pile at school. These are the things I learned:
- Share everything.
- Play fair.
- Don't hit people.
- Put things back where you found them.
- Clean up your own mess.
- Don't take things that aren't yours.
- Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
- Wash your hands before you eat.
- Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
- Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
- Take a nap every afternoon.
- When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
- Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
- Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we.
- And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK.
I have since re-read Kindergarten a few times. And much, if not all of it, now kicks in as I approach nearly six decades of break-dancing across this fragile, blue orb of ours. Lessons learned as the calendar pages seem to flip more rapidly.