The Codes That Guide Our Lives

Dave Dillon
Jefferson City, Mo.

To the Editor:

I can state my goal in life no better than the words attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson that I have framed from a lovely card I received from a friend after graduating from nursing school many years ago: “To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

What more meaningful gift to give the world than to leave it a better place. I have never since defined success any other way, and it has carried me through some rough times (financially and emotionally).

Diane Detlefsen
Thurmont, Md.

Credit…William Dock

To the Editor:

Just inside a harbor on Fidalgo Island, gateway to Washington’s San Juan Islands, I recall seeing a small rectangular sign on the end of a dock declaring “Your Wake Defines You” in red, black and white lettering, intended for boats that create havoc if they pass too quickly. This has also become my mantra.

No matter what I am doing, I always pay attention to the impact my choices have on others — from close relationships to what goes in my trash. If my impact is too destructive, I change course and find another way to achieve my goal — or, when necessary, forgo that goal altogether.

That’s not always easy, for shortcuts are tempting and some opportunities are tough to pass up. And, granted, there are at times impacts that you cannot see. However, if we constantly place value and attention on increasing the benefits that others get from our existence, or on reducing our negative impacts, the world would be a more habitable — and more humane — place.

William Dock
Seattle

To the Editor:

My guiding philosophy, a simple code I live by, is: “What if everyone did that?” Every little action (or inaction) can be judged by that credo. From leaving (or picking up) litter, to one’s behavior driving a car, to kindness or rudeness — each thing alone may be insignificant, but … what if everyone did the same?

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