Caregiver's Corner: Words to Live By

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By: Dave Kampfschulte

            We are all trying to navigate the journey through life.  On this journey, it is easy to get stuck in a rut, or worse yet, fall down a hole with not a readily visible way out.   If it was a car trip, we would have maps and GPS.  Life, unfortunately, does not come equipped with those tools or an instruction manual, so we have to search for guides elsewhere.  It is like we are Professor Langford, in The Da Vinci Code, looking for minute clues that will propel us forward to whatever our goals are.  It is rare that we come across a sign that says, “Go This Way!”  Instead, it is the collection of many small signs found along the edges.

            Sometimes signs come in the form of a book, movie, lecture, or a reading.  They work well, but I find myself often limited by time.  Many years ago, when I was in the early part of my teaching career, I found that I need something quick and to the point.  I went to observe a veteran teacher on my prep hour and saw that every day she put up a quote on the chalkboard (back when they had chalkboards!) and invited the class to comment on the meaning of that quote for each of the students.  Much to my surprise, they were animated and had a lot to say on the subject.  The quote was often picked to capture the theme to be discussed that day in class.

            The nice thing about teaching is you constantly come across different, proven ways to reach your class.  Needless to say, I started putting up quotes on the board of my classroom.  They not only jumpstarted my class, but they also sparked me and gave me focus in my own life.   I started keeping a notebook to jot down the ones that I found inspiring and arranged them according to categories that coincided with the units we talked about in my class, Experiences in Living; Life as an Adult.  They covered the whole spectrum: challenges in life, relationships, communication, death, and parenting, to name a few.

            Often the quotes provide a take on life that I had not thought of before. For example, Morrie Schwartz’s (Tuesdays with Morrie) quote, “Death ends a life, not a relationship.”  When someone dies, we often put our blinders on and think of only the loss and what is no longer there.  That quote helped me to take off my blinders and realize, yes, I am sad, but that person still influences me, motivates me, and parts of them live on through me and my actions.  I might, on occasion, talk to them.

            As I have done this now for quite a few years, I think taking off the blinders is an important part of what a quote can do.  When faced with a new, challenging situation, it is easy to strap on the blinders and get stuck in tunnel vision.  It is almost like it is a default setting on our computers. The blinders prevent us from seeing the whole picture and limit our options on how to proceed when the well-marked path we have been on angles off into the tall grass of uncertainty.

            Sometimes, the element of truth of the quote is cloaked with humor.  One of my workshop participants said when talking about marriage, “A good marriage is finding someone you can annoy for a really long time.”  I still laugh out loud when I hear that one.  From 45 years of experience, I know very well that there are times when I annoy my wife, but I still have a seat at the table.

            Many of the quotes are from famous people and are readily available online.  I always give them credit.  It seems the author, Anonymous, is particularly prolific in her sayings.  Another source is from a wise family member that has been handed down through the years.  One of my favorites that a student shared with my class is from her Grandma.  “People are like teabags.  They don’t know how strong they are until they are dipped into a little hot water.”

Some quotes provide more than just inspiration or a path forward. They become a building block of our moral code and a constant reminder of how to live our lives.  It is always fun to be in a group to discuss a particular quote or share some of your own.  If you are interested, I invite you to join my presentation with Family Caregiver University on Tuesday, September 28 at 10:00 a.m. To register please contact Area Agency on Aging at or by phone: 616-222-7032

My notebook is open and my pen is ready to add a few more Words to Live By.  I hope you will join us. 

Caregiver’s Corner is provided as a public service of the Caregiver Resource Network. The Caregiver Resource Network is a collaboration of West Michigan organizations dedicated to providing for the needs and welfare of family and professional caregivers within the community. Funded by the Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan with Older American’s Act Title IIIE, Family Caregiver Support funds.

For more information on Family Caregiver University classes provided by the Caregiver Resource Network, please call (888) 456-5664 or visit