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Be Good

By Anne Maxwell

My Grandma spoke those two short words to me as she hung clothes on the line to dry on a bright, breezy May morning so many years ago.

It was a few days after my high school graduation and I had walked out into the yard to tell her goodbye before I left for my summer job. She herself was leaving to return to her home a couple hours away, having spent time with us for the pomp and circumstance.

“I will, Grandma,” I replied, as she held a clothespin in her teeth and set the laundry aside to offer me a hug.

Her words seemed simple, cliche, and quite frankly, somewhat useless at the time.

“Be good.”

I thought “Good luck,” or “I’m so proud of you,” or just about any other candid “best wishes” phrase would have been much more appropriate. “Be good” seemed more like something she’d say to me as a 12-year-old boarding the bus to summer camp or a kindergartener headed to the first day of school.

The ears of that “know-it-all” 18-year-old process the memory of that phrase quite differently nearly three decades on. As graduation season nears, I think my 70-something grandmother wasn’t just throwing out random words.

She knew exactly what she was saying.

Minutes will tick away ceremonies in front of cap and gown clad graduates in the coming weeks and days. Much will be said. Most of it will be forgotten. Yet, some will be remembered.

And what is remembered might take time to sink in. A lot of time.

After all, it’s 30 years on and I have had to make my way down several twists and turns before I realized Grandma wasn’t just phoning it in with a catch phrase.

It wasn’t about behaving.

It was about behavior.

Not a chastisement. Rather, a challenge.

She spoke just two words. But, oh, the power in those two words if packed up and carried along for the duration of a journey in life -- no matter the direction.

Be good.

Be good to yourself.

Be good to others.

Be good at what you do.

Be good at friendship.

Be good at standing up for what you believe.

Be good at knowing when it’s time to walk away.

Be good at working hard.

Be good at relaxing.

Be good at speaking up.

Be good at listening.

Be good at following through.

Be good at forgiving others.

Be good at forgiving yourself.

Yes, it’s short. Simple. Sweet. And, turns out, more practical than anything else I heard before I ventured out to blaze my own trail.

So here’s to the class of 2019. For good measure, I’ll toss in a couple of the standards before I send you on your way.

Good luck.


And -- as my Grandma would say -- be good.

Want to read more Anne Maxwell Articles:

Oh Mother


Dear 14-year Old Daughter

Perfectly Imperfect

My Husband Dreads When the Calendar Turns to March


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