from Cody and the Rules of Life
by Tricia Springstubb
illustrated by Eliza Wheeler
Candlewick Press, 2017
I keep a wooden yardstick in my kitchen closet. It’s handy for pulling cat toys out from under the couch, reaching those stringy webbies that stick in the corners of the ceiling, and measuring grandkids against the doorframe.
Maybe that’s what it means to measure something. . . to see how well it measures up, or not. Measuring up when I was small often meant following rules.
Some rules I remember from grade school include the dont’s:
- Dont’t run
- Don’t talk when someone else is talking
- Don’t put your hands on anyone else
- Put trash in the wastebasket
- Raise your hand if you have a question
- Say “please” and “thank you” when appropriate
Rules helped life run smoothly. I knew what was allowed and was not allowed. If I broke a rule I had consequences. Rules helped me learn to respect my classmates, my teacher, and myself.
These days, lots of people clearly are not measuring up. Just read the newspaper or listen to TV news. We’d all benefit from some basic and useful rules.
- Be kinder than you have to be
- Take turns
- Imagine yourself in someone else’s shoes
- Tell the truth
- Don’t say bad words
- Don’t hurt each other
- Don’t take anything without asking
- Don't tell secrets
Rulers make rules. More complicated rules can be added to this list. But it all comes down to the most basic and maybe most important rule of all: Do not do to someone what you would not want someone to do to you. At first reading, this might sound negative. Look a little closer though to find the genius.
Doing to (or for) others what I want for myself puts me front and center: a comparison between my own likes and everyone else’s.
I chose to quote a much older passage. The emphasis is on the other person: making others feel comfortable, helping others reach their potential, giving others the benefit of the doubt.
I am not a rule-maker. I can only measure up to my own yardstick, letting my heart discover what is right, then finding enough courage to do it.