Following the death of her 47 year old daughter, a former employee of my deceased husband sent me a letter and near the end of it she wrote:   “Vern was a wonderful boss and my hero.  He paid attention to me whether I was talking about work or non- work related issues.  He cared about the problems I encountered as a single mother. He remembered my children’s names, ages and what sports each of them played. He cared about me and my family and that meant a lot. When I learned that you had written a book about your grief following his death, I bought it, read it and enjoyed it.  After my daughter’s death, I read it again and found it very comforting.”

I was pleased to learn that my book had helped someone.  I was even more pleased to know that my husband had been appreciated for his genuine caring and willingness to engage in life. This unexpected letter reminded me that we all need to be fully engaged in life.

I’m going to spend less time doing robotic, routine activities that leave my mind numb and spent more time engaged in life. I’ll begin the process by reflecting on the following lessons and tips that I learned on the front porches of my youth.

 “Love the one you’re with.” Loving others is good.  However, loving yourself is more important. After all, you spend more time with yourself than anyone else.

To thy own self be true.”  When you represent yourself to others as something other than what you really are, you are robbing them of the chance to know the real you.  Hence, if engagement happens at all, it happens under false pretences and isn’t much fun.

“Don’t talk to strangers.”   Worst advice I ever had. Spontaneous conversation between those who don’t know each other is great fun.  To me, there are no strangers, only friends I haven’t met yet.  If I didn’t talk to ‘strangers’ I would have far fewer friends.

“Be engaged in NOW!”   Life is a state of being.  To move from being to living, make time to be engaged in NOW – what is happening at this moment in time.

“Go out, see the world.” Better yet, don’t just see the world, participate in whatever strikes your fancy – as long as it does no harm to others.

“Do spontaneous acts of silliness.”  Random acts of kindness are nice.  However, random acts of silliness are more engaging.  Try putting a little wiggle in your walk, a little giggle in your talk or flashing an occasional sly grin, like the cat that ate the canary.  A random grin drives folks crazy trying to figure out why you are grinning.


Betty Freeman Haines, an author, lives in Mesquite, NV.  Her books/e-books, Reluctant Heroand Grieving Sucks or Does It, can be ordered from  Share your thoughts and opinions with her at

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