Thursday, February 11, 2010

HOPE: Fortune Cookies That Come True...

I started collecting quotes in graduate school when I was immersed in British and American literature, and I've continued to do it for nearly 40 years. I would I read something of value, and I didn't want to lose it. I have about 3000 of them now, which I've been sharing on this blog, my Twitter page, my Facebook page, the Golden Eggs ezine, and in my company's new product, ProStar Coach.

I'm selective. I find I'm only interested in quotes related to personal strength (of course there are dozens of types of personal strength). The author has to be a credible person, someone my readers might recognize. And I like them to be stated in an original way. Picky? Well, it's my collection.

I also have a collection of about 500 encouraging sayings that I call "Fortune Cookies." They're not like the messages you see in restaurant fortune cookies. And I wrote them all myself.

Why? Well, there's a story behind it...

I remember the exact moment I began writing fortune cookies on a regular basis. The idea came to me while my wife, Kathleen, and I were enjoying an evening at our favorite Chinese restaurant in Miami.

At the end of the meal, the waitress put two fortune cookies on top of the bill. I ignored them, picking up the bill. I hadn’t opened a fortune cookie in years. Maybe I had read too many of them and the sayings seemed stale and worn-out. Still, I noticed that the other diners eagerly broke open their cookies and smiled while reading the messages. Apparently the need for hope is so powerful that mature adults will immediately believe what’s printed on a skinny little strip of paper

But I wasn't charmed. To me they weren’t fortunes at all. They didn’t promise anything.

On the other hand, the need for hope had become an essential part of our lives. A few months before this pleasant evening, Kathleen was diagnosed with breast cancer. The day we were married, she still hadn’t recovered from her surgery. Now she was receiving daily radiation treatments.

Kathleen opened her cookie and read the fortune aloud: "A long journey begins with the first step." We both chuckled, but I noticed that her eyes moistened. I knew what journey she was thinking about. She ate her cookie in silence, and then she asked me to open mine. I declined, but she said, "Oh, come on!"

"You open it," I said, and so she did. "Love is the glue of life," she said. We laughed again, and she ate my cookie.

This playful after-dinner interchange triggered the "what if" part of my brain. I saw the soulful way Kathleen pondered the fortune cookie sayings.

What if a fortune cookie really promised something?

What if the promise was the kind that could come true?

What if the promise could inspire hope?

Good fortune is possible, though in life it almost never comes without adversity and effort. We increase our chances of getting what we hope for when we do the hard things and work through challenges.

A few days later, I was sitting at my desk wondering if I could write a foretelling of the future that wasn’t silly. Perhaps a fortune would be believable if it were conditional. I wrote this:

“Quiet your mind, and you’ll hear the still small voice of wisdom.”

I showed it to Kathleen, and to my surprise, she liked it. It's a very good thing to please your wife! Later, I tried another:

“Small step by small step, you'll ascend the ladder.”

She liked that one, too. For some reason, writing these little fortunes made both of us feel better. They seemed to declare that if we would only exercise inner strength, good things would happen.

During that first year of our marriage, Kathleen and I did everything we could to save her life. It was a challenging time, and we needed all the inspiration we could get, especially the kind that was grounded in reality. So each day I wrote a fortune cookie statement and gave it to her. I wrote hundreds of them. I wrote them for both of us. They became an important part of what happened back then.

Here's one for you...

Let the bright light in, and you won’t have to live in darkness.

All the Fortune Cookies have been collected in a database and are now a learning exercise feature in ProStar Coach, the online self-development service.

More Fortune Cookies...


Claire Boyles said...

I'd definitely love you to share them.

You just started following me on twitter & when I went to your account I loved your quotes & kept on reading your tweets until I followed a link to here.

I love your choices of quotes- I too have been collecting quotes, not quite as long as you have though!

I've also collected some of the quotes that you have tweeted to add to my collection. Thank you :)

Anonymous said...

Oh, Denny!
...great THANK YOU for your sincere confessions on your blog. It makes my day, when I see new post by you in my google reader...
you are truly a light!
send my regards to Kathleen!
you guys rock together!
cheers from snowy Slovakia.

Pamie G. said...

I love them....on this dreary day, I feel better already! Please share!

fortunecookiejunkie said...

I enjoyed this post. I came across it via a RT on Twitter. You might find my blog interesting - I started it because I found that most fortune cookie inserts are not actual fortunes at all, but rather not-a-fortunes.

Dana Theus said...

Oh please share them, Denny. These aren't just for you or us, they're "through" you, to bring hope and a smile and a slightly lighter heart to those who read them. I look forward to more.

I recently got the bug (thanks to Twitter) to try to write some little wisdoms too. And yes, they tend to look slightly corny when written so short, but I think it's only because when you only have a few characters to write, you boil things down to their essence. And in our culture, essence sounds corny. Sad, really. Let's change it, shall we?

Light to you,

squizel said...

Denny, they are beautiful.
Why not contact Dove Chocolates...and have them put your uplifting fortunes in them? They stopped what they were doing and the sayings in this batch are odd.
Yours would be terrific...and everyone would enjoy their chocolates better!

squizel said...

Well quotes in Dove's chocolates in my current bag are from Martha she has her place, but kitchen hints in a romantic chocolate??!!!

squizel said...

And I do love quotes too, Denny. I think I started collecting them in 1959 and I remember when I went to a retreat, the leader saw what I was doing and asked about my very small pocket size notebook. Showing him, he gently told me, well, it is a good idea but people always put down the author's name too!

Of course, I began to do that right there and collection is mostly motivational, inspirational, and values oriented...but you are so clever to write your own. I've admired your doing that for years when I learned you first did do have wisdom, Denny...and someday people will be quoting yours...always have your name attached so people will know where all the wisdom is coming from.

Now I have tried writing Haiku...I bet you would take to that form readily, have you? If you haven't read many, you might enjoy:
Lowenstein, Tom (Ed). (2007). Classic Haiku, The Greatest Japanese Poetry from Basho, Buson, Issa, Shiki and their followers. London: Duncan Baird Publishers. You will know when you see it why I like it...beautiful photographs every other page by John Cleare.