Do It Anyway

By Cheryl Mahoney

On our founder’s blog, Living and Giving, we recently featured a poem titled “Do It Anyway.”  Everything may not turn out perfectly when you try to do good…but do it anyway. 

“The good you do today, will often be forgotten.
Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. 
Give your best anyway.”

And so on.  It’s a beautiful poem, and you can read it in its entirety here.  In working with it, I discovered that the story behind the poem was nearly as interesting as the poem itself.

If you put “Do It Anyway” into Google (or, you will most likely find it attributed to Mother Teresa.  If you happen across a certain New York Times article, however, you’ll discover a more complicated story.  Kent M. Keith wrote “The Paradoxical Commandments” as a college student in 1968.   He self-published them, went on with the rest of his life, and forgot about them.  Writers occasionally remark that their writing has taken on a life of its own–rarely has this been so literally true.  “The Paradoxical Commandments” spread from person to person and, eventually, website to website, without the author’s knowledge and mostly without anyone having knowledge of the author.

Somehow the poem ended up in Calcutta.  A revised version was found, hand-written, on the wall of Mother Teresa’s orphanage.  Lucinda Vardey attributed it to Mother Teresa in her book Mother Teresa: A Simple Path.  The poem’s popularity soared.

And at a club meeting in 1998, 30 years after writing “The Paradoxical Commandments,” Mr. Keith heard his words quoted back to him, which led him to investigate the surprising growth of his writing.  He now has three books expanding on the poem available on Amazon.

Lesson learned:

If you write something beautiful, you may receive no recognition for it.
Write something anyway.

And reflecting on the subject has led me to come up with a few more “do it anyway”s myself.

If you give internationally, you might never meet the people you help.
Give anyway.

If you volunteer, you might not have a life-changing experience (though you very well might).
Volunteer anyway.

If you search on, you might still have to go to Google to find the site you need.
Start at GoodSearch anyway.

If you write a letter to a friend, you might not hear back.
Write a letter anyway.

If you write a letter to your senator about passing green legislation, they might not listen.
Write that letter anyway too.

If you set a goal to change the world, you might not reach it.
But set goals anyway.

And to wind up by quoting Mother Teresa:

“In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.”


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