A list of quotes that have inspired me during my Peace Corps service. Some have come from books I’ve read, others from friends or even the heavily drawn-upon walls of the Peace Corps provincial office in Northern Province. Most have come to me right when I needed them.

  • “Public opinion is a weak tyrant compared with our own private opinion. What a man thinks of himself, that it is which determines, or rather indicates, his fate.” — Henry David Thoreau, Walden
  • “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.” — Henry David Thoreau, Walden (I think I interpreted this quote in an entirely different way from the way Thoreau meant it, but it’s good either way.)
  • “If a man is alive, there is always danger that he may die, though the danger must be allowed to be less in proportion as he is dead-and-alive to begin with.” — Henry David Thoreau, Walden
  • “The universe constantly and obediently answers to our conceptions.” — Henry David Thoreau, Walden
  • “A tree that fills a man’s embrace grows from a seedling. A tower nine stories high starts with one brick. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Act and it’s ruined. Grab and it’s gone. People on the verge of success often lose patience and fail in their undertakings. Be steady from the beginning to the end, and you won’t bring on failure.” — Lao Tzu
  • “Nobody wants to hurt anyone else. Nobody wants to get her feelings hurt. So we’re all really careful. But maybe we should get our feelings hurt once in a while. Risk something. How can we grow as people if we live with such caution and anxiety? We’re becoming humorless and overinformed, afraid to act. So nothing happens.” — Jessica Hagedorn
  • “The farther one goes, the less one knows.” — Lao Tzu
  • “If one doesn’t trust himself, how can he trust anyone else?” — Lao Tzu
  • “Each time we meet another person is a special opportunity to re-experience our connection with the universe and to gain important insights into living that are unobtainable any other way. Why blow this opportunity by being defensive, half-hearted, or half-asleep …? No wonder we so often feel something is missing – for it is. We are missing.” — Lama Surya Das, Buddha is as Buddha Does
  • “The most mystical power and wondrous function is carrying water and lugging firewood.” — Layman P’ang
  • “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” — Helen Keller
  • “How you see a country depends on whether you are driving through it, or living in it. How you see a country depends on whether or not you can leave it, if you have to.” — Alexandra Fuller, Scribbling the Cat
  • “God made Africa first, while he still had imagination and courage.” — Alexandra Fuller, Scribbling the Cat
  • “Illusions mistaken for truth are the pavement under our feet. They are what we call civilization.” — Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible
  • “Every life is different because you passed this way and touched history.” — Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible
  • “Happiness is something that multiplies when it is divided.” — Paolo Coelho, By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept
  • “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.” — African proverb
  • “Why do you have to develop? If economic growth rises from 5% o 10%, is happiness going to double? … The more people do, the more society develops, the more problems arise.” — Masanobu Fukuoka, One-Straw Revolution.
  • “People struggle hard to understand, convince themselves that they understand, and die knowing nothing.” — Masanobu Fukuoka, One-Straw Revolution
  • “I’d like to change the world. It’s easier than changing me.” — Carbon Leaf
  • “It may seem like a small thing, but our lives are made up of small things.” — Lama Surya Das, Buddha is as Buddha Does
  • “We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” — Mother Teresa
  • “Be truthful, gentle, and fearless.” — Mahatma Ghandi
  • “Perfection is the enemy of progress.”  — anonymous quote left on the wall of my hut by my PCV predecessor.
  • “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” — Howard Thurman
  • “Take a little time for sunshine. Take a whole lot of time for love. Take time to praise and thank heaven up above. Take your life as it may come, ’cause boy it’ll be gone soon. Take a little time for howlin’ at the moon.” — Sam Bush
  • “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the idea that something else is more important.” — not sure, but it’s on my second-hand bookcase
  • “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”  — Helen Keller
  • “People claim the world is getting smaller, as if it were some green and blue balloon leaking air. Africans don’t buy this. To most Africans, the world is enormous. Why? Because they walk. They have no choice; they are poor. If you must use your own legs – your own blood, bone, and sinew – to travel from one place to another, a mile is a mile and the world is boundless.” — Mark Jenkins, To Timbuktu
  • “Life is the art of drawing without an eraser.” — awesome card sent by a friend
  • “Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” — Barack Obama
  • “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” — Nelson Mandela
  • “Time is a created thing. To say, ‘I don’t have time’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to.'” — Lao Tzu
  • “Trees are living symbols of peace and hope. A tree has roots in the soil yet reaches to the sky. It tells us that in order to aspire we need to be grounded, and that no matter how high we go, it is from our roots that we draw sustenance.”  — Wangari Maathai, Unbowed
  • “Education, if it means anything, should not take people away from the land, but instill in them even more respect for it, because educated people are in a position to understand what is being lost.” — Wangari Maathai, Unbowed

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