“A Few Good Words,” March 22, 2022

What are your favorite words? What’s the best thing anyone has ever said to you? What’s the best thing you say to others, and maybe need to say to yourself?

Words matter. They make a difference, good or bad, whether spoken or left unsaid.

Think of some words that have changed your life: “Yes.” “No.” “I do.” “I won’t.” “Help me.” I’m sorry.” “I love you.” “Goodbye.”

I recall countless times when saying those words marked a fork in the road that took me in a new direction. Can you recall times like that, too?

For more than 30 years, I’ve been privileged to work as a writer, and I never cease to be amazed by the power of words.

Do you ever read or hear something you wish you had written or said? I do that most every day. I come across words that are so profoundly good I want to keep them forever.

So years ago, I started a computer file I call (drum roll, please) “A Few Good Words.” It’s a hodge-podge collection of dozens of quotes and more than a few poems that I like to think were written just for me.

Whenever I take time to read through that file, as I did this morning, I find myself nodding and smiling. And for a while, my world becomes a better place.

Here are a few of the words in that file that speak to me. I hope they speak to you, too:

– “Esse quam videri.” That’s the official motto, adopted in 1893, of my homestate, North Carolina. It means, “To be, rather than to seem.”

-“I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.” — Robert Frost, from “The Lesson for Today.”

– “The best thing to hold onto in life is each other.” — Audrey Hepburn.

– “I have mean dogs and they will bite you.” — Kiowa Waters, my great-niece at age 5, warning her California cousins not to mess with her. I’m tempted to post it as a sign in my driveway.

– “The time is always right to do what is right.” — Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

-“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”—Mark Twain.

– “I’m a writer, but then nobody’s perfect.” — writer Billy Wilder, in a nod to the last line of “Some Like It Hot.”

– “To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone.” — Reba McEntire.

– “Never try to teach a pig to sing. It’s a waste of time and it annoys the pig.”—Lazarus Long.

– Whenever I’m invited to speak at an event, I try to heed this wise advice on speaking by national security advisor Anthony Lake: “Think of yourself as the body at an Irish wake. They need you in order to have the party, but no one expects you to say very much.”

– Here are two quotes by Johnny Cash: “Trust gets you killed, love gets you hurt and being real gets you hated.” And “All your life, you will be faced with a choice. You can choose love or hate…I choose love.”

– And two quotes by Oscar Wilde: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” And “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.”

– And two quotes from Mother Teresa: “People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered; forgive them anyway.” And “Peace begins with a smile.”

– Here’s a Bible verse I learned as a child from my granddad, who was, among many things, a Baptist preacher. This verse, like his love, has seen me through a lot of hard times: “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” — John 16:33.

– Finally, I don’t know who wrote this, but it’s a strong contender for my epitaph: “Here lies a woman of whom it was said, her sins were many, but her columns were read.”

Words matter. What do you need to hear? What do you need to say? Here’s wishing you and yours a lifetime of good words.

(Sharon Randall is the author of “The World and Then Some.” She can be reached at P.O. Box 922, Carmel Valley CA 93924 or by email at randallbay@earthlink.net.)


  1. John Rhoads says

    My collection of “A Few Good Words” I titled “Notes and Quotes From A Father To A Son”. It contains one or two of the lines you included in your column today. Intermingled with the thoughts of the great authors and thinkers I included my own thoughts and insights about life. I self-published the collection in a hard-back volume to present to my son years ago, all 138,000 such words. I immediately started volume II, now standing at 78,000 words. Some of the lines your shared today I will add to my second collection with the fervent hope my son, or one of his children, will someday have the time to review and contemplate the fundamental meaning of what those words mean. Anyone should have expected you had done something similar. Cheers, great one!

  2. Michael T. Klafter says

    Greetings Sharon,
    How about made-up words:
    My granddaughter Autumn (age four) on being asked to throw her younger brother’s dirty diaper in the trash. “no, I am not the keepiner [SIC],
    I’m not the one who decided to have all these kids.” She has 7 siblings.
    To this day when I do a crossword puzzle and the clue is Han Solo’s weapon (seven letters) my first instinct is to fill in boofgun courtesy of son Geoff. The answer is blaster.
    Have a blessed day!!

  3. Linda Heidebrecht says

    Thank you for your many insightful, caring, practical words over the years. I feel like you are a friend. Even though I will no longer be able to read your columns in our news paper, I look forward to reading them online and sharing your wisdom with my other friends! You are a special Nana!

  4. My guiding principle comes from a 1996 Wired magazine column written by Nicholas Negroponte, who once ran MIT’s Media Lab: “”My advice to graduates is to do anything except what you are trained for. Take that training to a place where it is out of place and stimulate ideas, shake up establishments, and don’t take no for an answer.”

  5. I love words & tend to talk too much. Your words always mean so much to me & often help me through another day. Please keep writing & encouraging us all. Take care & God Bless you & yours.

  6. Yolanda Shockley says

    Your thoughts and words are truly inciteful and thought provoking.Thank you for your wonderful thoughts.

  7. Deb Weisgerber says

    Do you watch Jeopardy? The Oscar Wilde quote “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars” was one of the answers on tonight’s show! Lots of good advice in this column….always the highlight of my week…Thank you!

  8. Kate Sciacca says

    Wow. More food for thought…. I guess the one I love hearing the most is “I’ll pray for you” (when spoken by someone who definitely will 😜). Any little person trying to say “grandma.” “Thanks, that really helped.” “We’re expecting another!” “He/she is feeling much better!” Those are a few… oh, and when I’m visiting kids???? “Dinner’s ready!” 😂😂👍🏻

  9. Sharon,
    More often than not, your words touch my heart, make me smile, make me think, and often make me want to be better. I have clipped, and shared so many of your columns.
    Thank you for sharing your words with me.

  10. I, too, love words. I always remember my mother’s advice…if you don’t have anything nice to say, then be quiet. And, it is better to be single than wish you were. ❤️

  11. Tim Bridler says

    As always, beautifully conveyed words of wisdom.
    One of my favorites is from a book I read.
    Something to the effect ” I haven’t felt like I was 39 since I was 25.”
    Now, I ain’t callin’ you old, but I think you get it.
    Thanks for brightening our day.

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