Five Lessons to Live By!

In challenging times, I find comfort in these five lessons to live by!

By Ken Merwin

To say my sister and I had a rocky and challenging early childhood is an understatement. It’s a miracle we survived, and I credit our survival to the Bible Club sponsored by two of the kindest women, Miss Clark and Miss Simon. Grandma would drop us off for an hour every Wednesday; Miss Clark and Miss Simon set me on a road of lifetime learning. They used a felt board on an easel and cut-out characters to tell stories from the Bible – everything from Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to Moses and the Ten Commandments to Daniel in the Lions’ Den to Jesus and his Twelve Disciples. They would always lead us in reading Bible verses and singing hymns. Miss Clark and Miss Simon set a table that was open and loving. As I look back on the five lessons to live by I learned all those years ago, I look at how those lessons apply today.

The Golden Rule. One of the first verses Miss Clark and Miss Simon taught is from Leviticus 19:18 (KJV), the Golden Rule, “Do unto other as ye would have others do unto you.” My 5th grade teacher, Mr. Bay broke my heart when told everyone on the first day of class that nobody lives the Golden Rule. Sadly, I realize that he was right – nobody is perfect. However, I do try to live up to this ideal and encourage everyone to try. Lesson for today: We should extend a hand in friendship and love instead of raising a fist in defiance and hate.

Jesus Loves the Little Children. The hymn I remember most goes like this, “Jesus loves the little children. All the little children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight.” It taught me that if Jesus loves all the little children, then I guess we should too. Lesson for today: all lives matter to Jesus.

The Lord’s Prayer. The part of the Lord Prayer (KJV) that I want to highlight here is, “…And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us….” The first part is the hardest. I still feel bad about the times, decades after the event, when I was a jerk and said something hurtful to a friend. Sane people carry our fears, failures, and sins farther than we should. Forgiving others is hard, too. I admire the courage of the mother who forgives her son’s killer. A corollary is John 8:7 (KJV) “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone.” Lesson for today: from peaceful protest turned into riots to cancel culture run amok; I wonder if we can instead ask for and give a little forgiveness.

God, Country, and Corps. After teaching recruits how to talk (“Sir is the first word out of your mouth” and “Sir is the last word out of your mouth.”) and walk (Sir, take a 30-inch step with the left foot. Aye, aye, Sir!), our Marine Drill Instructors taught us how to prioritize a conflict: it’s God, Country, and Corps. You follow God’s law first, then the laws of the Country, and finally the lawful orders from the Marine Corps. The Drill Instructors made it clear that it was not about a specific religion; it was about what was important. This goes to the heart of our Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, our God-given Rights. Lesson for today: if there is no higher power and all rights are granted by men, then men can cancel our Rights as they see fit.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s I Have a Dream Speech. I was too young and too far removed to remember when he gave the speech. It wasn’t until 20 years later when I was in college that I discovered it and read it in full for the first time. It was filled with hope and with love. It is perhaps the greatest speech of the last 100 years; certainly, it is the greatest in my lifetime. The speech was a nonviolent call to action. A call to America to live up to its “…creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’” Below are the two lines from the speech that struck me the most.

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

The inclusiveness of his dream of the table of brotherhood is so powerful. Lesson for today: I am certain that if he were asked today, he would say, “yes, all people should be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.”

Today is a rocky and challenging time for our country. The lessons I learned from Miss Clark and Miss Simon lead me to ask simple questions.

  • Instead of attacking those with whom we disagree, can we ask, “I’m not perfect either, but how can I help?”
  • Instead of labeling those with whom we disagree as racists, can we sing, “Jesus loves the little children, all the little children?”
  • Instead of canceling those with whom we disagree, can we say, “I forgive you, please forgive me?”
  • Instead of screaming vile things at those with whom we disagree, can we ask, “how can we make the things better?”
  • Instead of inciting violence against those with whom we disagree, can we ask, “will you sit at my table?”

When we pause, we will discover there are more things to bring us together than to tear us apart. We have journeyed far in the nearly sixty years since Dr. King gave his important speech. It would be a shame if we let his Dream die, especially when we are just that close. It would be a shame if the Dream that is America (that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness) passed from the earth.

Kenneth Merwin
Latest posts by Kenneth Merwin (see all)

3 Responses to “Five Lessons to Live By!”

  1. Tom Rumph


    Very insightful and impactful!! We can use a lot more of this.