Woody Guthrie’s 33 New Year’s resolutions (summed up in just 2 words)

Earlier this week, I wrote about how I’m not really a New Year’s resolution kinda gal, but if I were, I’d draw inspiration from a tattered handwritten document penned in 1942.

Drawn up by legendary singer-songwriter Woody Guthrie, the 33-item list is a quirky and sweet reminder of how the quality of our lives depends not so much on huge accomplishments but on the countless small actions and habits that constitute our days.

For the record, here is what the 30-year-old Guthrie sought to do in the year ahead:

1. Work more and better
2. Work by a schedule
3. Wash teeth if any
4. Shave
5. Take bath
6. Eat good — fruit — vegetables — milk
7. Drink very scant if any
8. Write a song a day
9. Wear clean clothes — look good
10. Shine shoes
11. Change socks
12. Change bed cloths often
13. Read lots good books
14. Listen to radio a lot
15. Learn people better
16. Keep rancho clean
17. Dont get lonesome
18. Stay glad
19. Keep hoping machine running
20. Dream good
21. Bank all extra money
22. Save dough
23. Have company but dont waste time
24. Send Mary and kids money
25. Play and sing good
26. Dance better
27. Help win war — beat fascism
28. Love mama
29. Love papa
30. Love Pete
31. Love everybody
32. Make up your mind
33. Wake up and fight

As I read over this list one more time, it struck me that the whole rambling lovely mass could be summed up in just two words: Be kind.

Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. Be kind to your community and the planet we all inhabit. While concrete goals are great—and certainly have their place—it’s the spirit in which they’re undertaken that lies at the heart of it all.

Note: Big thanks to my friend and law school classmate Ted Mills, who shared the Guthrie list with me on Facebook in response to my previous post. Here’s the link he posted.

© 2011, amy gutman. All rights reserved.

2 thoughts on “Woody Guthrie’s 33 New Year’s resolutions (summed up in just 2 words)

  1. I’ve seen this list several times recently and I always smile when reading #28 – 31 (Love Moma/Love Papa/Love Pete/Love Everybody). Yes, “Be Kind” sums this up nicely.

    One of my favorite sayings, almost a meditation or prayer for me:

    Life is short and we have never too much time for gladdening the hearts of those who are travelling the dark journey with us. Oh, be swift to love; make haste to be kind. — Henri Frederic Amiel

    Make haste to be kind: my saying, my mantra, my objective, my New Years’ Resolution, my guidepost and waymark for 2012.
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