Friday, September 27, 2013

The Gift

"Then give to the world the best that you have,
And the best will come back to you." 
~ Madeline S. Bridges  
(Mary Ainge De Vere, b. 1840's) 

When I was very young, there was a poster on my wall depicting a beautiful waterfall and a bridge.  I'm quite certain it was Multnomah Falls, one of the most photographed waterfalls in the world, a place I would only much later come to know in this beautiful state I call home.

There was a quote on the poster, unattributed, words written upon my heart every single day, an excerpt from a poem by 19th century American poet Madeline S. Bridges, whose real name is Mary Ainge De Vere.  Every day, I was reminded to be the best I could possibly be, give the most I could possibly give:

"Give to the world the best that you have,
And the best will come back to you."

A picture I took of Multnomah Falls, Oregon on a winter day.
I kept the poster with me for many years.  It came with me to more than one college.  It was up on my first office wall.  It was up in various apartments.  And then for a while, worn and torn from several moves, it was simply rolled up in an attic, as I was just too sentimental to throw it away.  Eventually, I had to let it go, as it was simply a poster, never framed, and it couldn't last forever.  Yet even long after the poster was gone, the words came to me, echoing in my mind for half a lifetime.

On this day, a critically vital day, a day of birth and rebirth, the day I became a mother many years ago, Mary's words are with me once again.  She was not a particularly famous poet, yet her words, a simple, heartfelt expression, had an indelible impact on a life, my life, and no doubt others too.

Mary is not in Wikipedia (though perhaps she should be).  There is very little to be found on her life online.  From scant resources that do exist (accurate or not), it is said she was a life-long poet who lived in Brooklyn, New York, born in the 1840's, with poems published in periodicals in 1870 and 1890.  I'm really not sure when she wrote Life's Mirror, which I quote in its entirety below (with a caveat that what one finds online may not always be quoted precisely). 

Life's Mirror 
by Madeline S. Bridges 
(Mary Ainge De Vere)
There are loyal hearts, there are spirits brave,
There are souls that are pure and true;
Then give to the world the best that you have,
And the best will come back to you.

Give love, and love to your life will flow,
A strength in your utmost need;
Have faith, and a score of hearts will show
Their faith in your work and deed.

Give truth, and your gift will be paid in kind,
And honor will honor meet;
And the smile which is sweet will surely find
A smile that is just as sweet.

Give sorrow and pity to those who mourn;
You will gather in flowers again
The scattered seeds from your thought outborne
Though the sowing seemed but vain.

For life is the mirror of king and slave,
'Tis just what we are and do;
Then give to the world the best that you have
And the best will come back to you.

The world is filled with brilliant writers most of us have never known, their voices from the heart.  Yet sometimes, in the most mysterious of ways, their words emerge to change a life, a Gift that keeps on giving the world its very best.

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