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Do you have a mantra, a motto, or a favorite scripture verse that comes to mind as “words to live by”?

As a nerdy freshman in high school, somewhere near the bottom of the social totem pole, I adopted the traditional Chinese saying “He who expects nothing is never disappointed” as a code with which to get by, if not to live by, but it wasn’t very satisfying — or true, for that matter. 

For most of my adult life, I’ve favored Micah 6:8 as a “life verse,” as some people like to call it: “He has told you, O mortal, what is good, and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God?” (NRSV). That seems to just about cover most aspects of life, at least as it relates to God and others.

I have a new favorite adage that echoes Micah’s thought in some ways, while including more personal values. As my birthday approached, a precious friend gave me a decorative sign that is now firmly ensconced on my desk (here beyond a stack of books). She said it reminded her of me, which was humbling, since I fall short in so many ways — but it does represent much of what I aspire to:

“Think deeply. Speak gently. Love much. Laugh a lot. Work hard. Give freely. And be kind.”

All of those things require both effort and intention — including laughing, which I don’t do enough. And, I believe that all of them, when put into practice, make the world a better, nicer, happier place.

So here’s my mantra for this day that turns my age into a new number, for this fresh year of life and love and work and kindness … and laughter, too?

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