All I really needed to know, I learned . . .


Remember, several decades ago Robert Fulghum came out with the book: All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten?

What do you remember about kindergarten? I remember Mrs. Lombard who looked like my Grandma Jo. I remember taking naps and finger-painting. I remember building with blocks and sharing with others.

This was sixty-some years ago and I don’t remember the names of the others in my class although I know that some of them also attended the same Catholic elementary school I did.

Playing with others and sharing — I wonder did we really need to learn anything else? I’m sure I must have learned other things during that year, but I can’t remember any of them.

I already knew the alphabet and could print my name and other things. I could dial the phone, tell time and count change at the store. I knew my street address and home phone number.

The only thing I remember from first grade was Sister Joseph Marie yelling at our class when none of us got 100% on the first spelling test of our lives. I learned how you could be treated when part of a group, but I don’t think our teacher realized just exactly what she was teaching. And, all of the other things we must have done and learned — vanished like a fart in the wind. (with apologies to Warden Norton)

Later on, I remember learning that America is (was?) the land of the free and the home of the brave. I remember learning that Lady Liberty lifted her lamp beside the golden door welcoming people to the land where they could realize their dreams of a better life for themselves and their children.

My father’s family was here before our country but Lady Liberty welcomed my mother’s parents.

I learned that each of the world’s major religions has some version of the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Do you want others to treat you nicely? Treat them the same.

Do you want others to share? Share with them.

Do you want others to respect you? Treat them with respect.

Do you want others to help you? Help them.

The Golden Rule is not: Do unto others before they do unto you.

The Golden Rule is not: I’ve got mine; the hell with you.

Later, I learned that the United States is (was?) a Great Power. John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan showed how a Great Power acted. Are we acting like a Great Power today or are we just acting?

I look around today and I wonder what other people learned in kindergarten.

It doesn’t matter whether you are Republican or Democrat, left or right, conservative or liberal. There are people out there, on the same side or opposed to your beliefs who learned different things than I did in kindergarten — and, possibly, different things than you learned.

None of us were taught to call each other bad/nasty names — for, despite the old saw “but words will never hurt me” words do hurt. None of us were taught to be selfish and to hoard all of the paint, blocks or blankets. None of us were taught to lie or “shade the truth.” But we learned those things anyway.

Take a few moments to look at those people in public life that you admire and respect. Why do you admire and respect them? Is it because their beliefs match or are close to yours? Is it because their actions reflect what we learned in kindergarten? Or is it because of something else?

How about we set a new standard for selecting people to admire. How about we look at them and think: If he, or she, was five years old (and has the personality exhibited by the adult version) would I want to play with or share a kindergarten classroom with that person?

If our politicians cannot meet that standard why should we vote for them?

“It doesn’t matter what you say you believe – it only matters what you do.” Robert Fulghum