Six Basic Principles

Dear Will:

Sometime in the late ‘80s, the writer Robert Fulgham published an essay entitled “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” It was a remarkable little piece, down-home and introspective, filled with simple but profound counsel. Perhaps you remember it:

Share everything.

Play fair.

Don’t hit people.

Put things back where you found them.

Clean up your own mess.

Don’t take things that aren’t yours.

Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.

Wash your hands before you eat.


Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Live a balanced life—learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.

Take a nap every afternoon.

When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together. . . .

That essay was published long before the Internet and yet it still managed to go “viral,” as we say today. I still remember hearing it for the first time from the pulpit in the Westwood chapel in a talk given by a man named Michael Grilikhes. Imagine. It’s been over 20 years. . . .

Fulgham’s essay came to mind the other day while I was reading with my family from the third chapter of Luke, where we find the only record of what might be called the Gospel of John the Baptist. You’ll recall that John preached on the shores of the river Jordan, calling all to repent and be baptized. Like Fulgham’s, John’s counsel was profound in its simplicity (Luke 3:10-14):

10 And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then?

11 He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.

12 Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do?

13 And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you.

14 And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do?  And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.

Do you sometimes feel like living the Gospel of Jesus Christ is just too hard—that there are too many commandments and precepts and expectations? I think John offers a simpler view of the same thing. Six basic principles to live by: Say you’re sorry. Share. Be fair. Don’t hurt others. Be honest. Be content.

Six basic principles. Think how the world would be different—scratch that—think how your life would be different if you and those around you adhered to those simple teachings. The thought itself is so intriguing that my family and I have decided to take up that challenge and see how it might improve our lives together.

I’m excited to give that experiment a try. Why don’t you join us?