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Words To The Wise: The Family Phrases That Stay With Us


When families gather for Thanksgiving, between the fights and the embarrassing childhood stories and the political debates, there might be a few words of wisdom. Independent producer Jim Metzner wanted to collect some of these words. So he asked folks walking around on New York City's High Line, what words of wisdom have stuck in your head over the years?

AUDREY VAN GELDER: My mother always said when I was growing up, it's nice to be important but it's more important to be nice.

GREGSON DAVIS: My father would say that the Bible says love your neighbor as you love yourself. That means you've got to love yourself first.

ANNE VON BISMARK: (Foreign language spoken) It means under every roof, there is a problem, a sad story. So never look at people and assume they have it better.

PETER FORD: If my wife gives me a job, say, to wash the car or whatever and she notices that I missed a spot, I'll always remember my grandmother saying, oh, a man riding by on horseback would never know the difference (laughter).

NATASHA CRUTSON: (Laughter) My Aunt Gussy (ph) would say when I'm sitting on the bus, always keep your legs together.

ADAM CARSON: If you're going to make a mistake, make it right then learn. That was my mom.

SUSAN MCCARTHY: It was my grandmother. And she said to me never give anybody a wimpy handshake. It shows a lack of character.

PEGGY ROMEO: They would say in Patois it would be (foreign language spoken) full basket means that to fill the basket of cocoas, it's one at a time and eventually it will get full. So, like if any project or anything that you - you're doing - they're like, just take your time and keep doing it. You'll eventually get done.

TOM LAPRESTI: From my grandmother, who never learned English, who said love isn't what people say they feel. It's what you see them do.

SHAPIRO: Words of wisdom collected from Audrey Van Gelder, Gregson Davis, Anne Von Bismarck, Peter Ford, Natasha Crutson, Adam Carson, Susan McCarthy, Peggy Romeo and Tom LaPresti. We want to collect your family's words of wisdom. Send us a message at You'll find the contact link at the bottom of the page. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.
Jim Metzner

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