Dear Mrs. Merrick:

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

I’ve received a lot of advice over my 78 years. Some of it was good. Most of it was a load of malarkey. But there’s one piece that stands out above the rest.

I was in grade school, and it was coming up on my turn to give a presentation. I sat on a bench, wedged between other students, my head buried in my hands. My knees must have been knocking loud enough to be distracting, because when I looked up, the teacher was kneeling beside me.

She asked me to follow her to the back of the schoolhouse. All the students within earshot stared at me, their eyes wide. Being called to the back was never a good thing.

But in this case. It was.

In fact, it was the best thing.

Mrs. Wilson peered over top of her spectacles at me, a wisp of grey hair falling out of her bun and sliding across her leathery cheek. I will never forget that moment.

She didn’t give me trouble, but she also didn’t coddle me. She did just the opposite.

She challenged me.

It was the first time out of many I would hear these three words from her. Words I carried with me throughout the rest of my life

Words that changed the way I lived.

One simple phrase.

“Do hard things.”

I don’t remember how I did on my presentation that day, but I know those words became embedded into my soul.

They guided me through hard times and tough situations. They helped me face things, rather than run away. They helped me move on after my husband’s death, when I thought the world was ending. And they challenged me to be a better Christian.

Those three little words helped me be a better parent, and a better grandma.

They helped me teach my daughter to overcome anxiety. Instead of giving in to each fear she felt, she met it head on and did hard things. Over time, that gave way to more confidence, as she knew she could succeed, because she did it before.

The words helped my grandson to leave the comfort of his hometown and the security of his job, and move his family to the Philippines to be missionaries. They’ve shared God with thousands of hungry souls and planted three churches.

My great-granddaughter learned to do hard things by picking herself up every time she fell while learning to skate. Instead of giving up, she persisted. This year she won an award at her skating club.

Each one of them have continued to do hard things, encouraged by the results from a previous decision to do so. It’s spurred them on, and made them stand out from a crowd.

So that’s it. My best advice received and given. Don’t cower, don’t shy away, and don’t give up.

Do hard things.

It’s always worth it.

Mrs. Merrick