Sometimes the advice we receive is not worth the contents of a soda can. Sometimes the advice given to children can be destructive and alter our perception of human relationships. Now that I am a mother of two girls, the floodgates are wide open and I remember moments of what it felt to be small, to wonder and to ask “why.” I hope to provide a little solace when they seek clarity and I hope they don’t think nurturing is a learned quality. I hope my girls feel and express love and know that comfort is instinctual, an integral part of the human condition. When I was twelve, my mother left our family due to mental illness and question mark. The question has permeated my being. What on earth makes you abandon your family? I was attending a private, conservative Lutheran school so I had a brief meeting with our pastor regarding “my unfortunate circumstances” as they were referred. I remember asking our pastor why did this happen to me and my family. He looked at me with a grave expression and I expected wise words, reassurance, a lesson on faith. What I received was this “God never gives you more than you can bear.” At night when I would pray I would tell God aloud “perhaps you did not know God but it’s too much to handle, the pain is too great.” I don’t know that my pastor could have said anything so profound as to soften the blow of my dysfunctional family. Yet I was looking for compassion and instead I might have better luck seeking advice from a fortune cookie. Over the years, I have also received advice that has shaped my values and my perspective. My father is a generous man and he has often told me “it’s far more important to be kind than it is to be right.” I hear his voice when petty disagreements weigh on my conscience. Also at a pivotal moment in my life my stepmom told me “Jan, strive to be more than just another pretty girl, it will serve you in the long run to take the time to cultivate your passions.” And one of the greatest passages I ever read came from the book ‘The Message’ by Oriah Mountain Dreamer. She discussed the importance of sitting with another’s pain. She talks about the value in being able to be present when someone is hurt. We don’t have to fix it, we just have to listen and then we will truly learn empathy. I have played this over like a mantra throughout the years; as I practiced in social work, watching my husband grieve the loss of his father and close friend and also with myself when I am living with self-doubt and fear. Mistakes will be made when my girl’s seek guidance. I know I can be judgemental with people I love. Hopefully I don’t say something that is costly for one’s self-esteem. I hope I opt to love, listen and encourage. May I not resort to a hollow adage such as ‘time heals all things.’ We know this to be untrue; most deep wounds never truly heal, they just become less visible. Some wounds like advice or people change our vision and alter our course a bit. May we all strive to play a positive part in someone’s journey.