Hello everyone and welcome to episode 118, Relationship Lessons from 3 Unlikely Places.

If we pay attention, it’s interesting how we can pick up little nuggets of relationship lessons from unusual places. In today’s episode, I describe three of these unlikely sources of interpersonal relationship lessons.

One is from a CNN interview, another from a Saturday morning men’s coffee get-together, and the third from a desk calendar devoted to Cats.

Relationship lesson from a CNN Interview
  • In December 2020 CNN interviewed Dolly Parton. She told her interviewer that she almost always wakes up by 3 am.
  • “Every single day, before I do anything, I wake up and I thank God for the night and ask Him to bless the day and to bring all the right things…all the wrong people out of my life, and bring all the right stuff in,” Parton said. “And just to guide me, lead me. And I always pray that he'll let me uplift mankind and glorify Him.”
  • In addition to prayer, Parton says she has daily scriptures and meditations that she reads as well. She credits the practice to grounding her during her packed days.
  • With regard to getting up at 3 am, the interviewer goes on to quote her, “I get more work done during that little period of time when the world is calm, energies are down, and I just feel like a farmer,” Parton said about her early morning routine. She's either writing, answering emails, or doing call-ins. She even says that she's able to get a lot of her best work done during this time.”They say the early bird gets the worm,” Parton said. “Well, they also get a lot of good ideas too.”
  • Links in the interview I read led to learning about her advocacy for childhood literacy
  • Growing up in rural Tennessee, the singer recalls many families not sending their children to school. “Kids had to go to the fields and work to help support all of these big families.”
  • Parton’s father was illiterate. “My own father didn’t get a chance to go to school,” she says. “He couldn’t read and write, and that hindered him a great deal because he was so smart. It really bothered him a lot.”
  • In 1995, Parton started the Imagination Library in honor of her father [who died in 2000] The charity sends free books every month to preschool-aged children.
  • So far, Imagination Library has distributed almost 85 million books in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia.

“My dad was so proud when the kids would get the books. He just was prouder of that than probably my great success in show business.”

The relationship lesson learned
  • For me, it’s not about the time you awake. It’s about starting your day, whatever time that is for you, with God. It’s the most important relationship of all.
  • From Dolly Parton’s prayer, I learned the virtue of fitting my plans into God’s agenda, instead of asking God to fit into mine.
  • I also learned a beautiful way to honor our parents. To build upon a deficiency in their life, by doing what one can to eliminate that same deficiency in the life of others. I can’t afford to give away a million books a year to pre-schoolers, but I’m able to help teach one or two of them to read. I actually did this with my “Grandpa Academy.”
Relationship lesson from a Saturday Morning Men’s Coffee Get Together

Text from Randy, July 17, 202. In reference to the book Personality Isn’t Permanent, the subject of episode 113, “Our Choices Define Us, Not Our Personality.” Randy took exception to an earlier episode, where I suggested we stay away from personality tests. So we talked about it.

John, you are going to crack up. This group of retired guys regularly comes to my “Saturday morning coffee place”. The one guy, John, came up to me today and asked how I’m doing and he saw “the book”

I hadn’t even read 1 page of the intro!!!! So, I told him about it and we talked briefly about not putting people into boxes….and then he said, “ in my old age I find my personality shifting all the time!”  If for no other reason, this book has already started to be a great conversation starter!!!

The relationship lesson learned
  • Books can help build relationships, especially when they challenge long-held beliefs
  • We grow when we read, listen, and consider the viewpoints of others that differ from our own. It creates depth in our character.
  • Humor can be a great tool to connect us with one another, especially self-deprecating humor where we humble ourselves.
  • Personal growth flourishes in community, like Randy’s men’s group. Less so in isolation.
Relationship lesson from a Cat Calendar
  • My wife and I have a difference of opinion about whether or not to get a cat. We had several in the past. I want one; she doesn’t. So we’ve compromised. We’re not getting one. Yet.
  • Instead, and I may have mentioned this before, but our daughter gave me a cat desk calendar with pages you peel off for each day of the year. Each page has a picture of a cat and a quotation, usually totally unrelated to anything about cats.

Here’s the quote for July 19th

“I”m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The relationship lesson learned
  • With a lie comes loss. With a loss comes grief.
  • Lies break trust. A lie today destroys trust that took years to build.
  • When we are lied to it resets a relationship and calls everything about our relationship into question. We have to start all over again.
  • For parents, teach this truth to your kids when they are very young. It’s so much harder the older they get.
So what does all that we considered in this episode mean for YOU?

How can you use what you’ve heard today to improve the relationships in YOUR life? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Imagine how our days would go if we started each one as Dolly Parton does, with a prayer where we thank God for a night of rest, and ask Him to bless today and to” bring all the right things…all the wrong people out of our life, and bring all the right stuff in. And just to guide us. And pray that he'll let us uplift mankind and to glorify Him.”
  2. Honor someone close to us who has died, as Dolly Parton did with her father. Her Literacy Library gives away a million books a month to pre-school kids. Because her dad didn’t learn to read, she wants to help erase the same deficiency in others that her father experienced.
  3. As far Randy’s Saturday Morning Men’s Coffee Get Together, how do you see your personality changing the older you get? What patterns have you noticed, both good and bad, as you age?
  4. With regard to the Nietzsche quote, who are the people you can no longer believe? Can you give them a second chance? Is there anyone who can no longer believe you because you lied to them? What can you do to regain their trust?
One final thought

If you have an open mind and are curious about the world, you don’t have to look very hard to learn relationship lessons. That is the common thread woven through the three sources of relationship lessons I shared today.

The Dolly Parton lesson is something that popped up on a news feed on my computer one morning. I didn’t go looking for it. Things like this can be a huge distraction, so we have to be careful. But every now and then a gem will pop up, like the one I shared.

The lesson learned from my friend Randy’s men’s group came in a text he sent to me. I didn’t go looking for it.

The relationship lesson I learned from my Cat calendar came from the simple act of turning to the next day of the year. I didn’t go looking for any profound relationship lesson. It just stared me in the face on its own.

Here’s the main point I hope you remember from today’s episode

We can learn relationship lessons from some unusual places. Be on the lookout for them, because they will enrich your life.

I’d love to hear any thoughts you have about today’s episode. Just send them to me in an email to john [at] caringforothers [dot] org. Or you can share your thoughts in the “Leave a Reply” box at the bottom of the show notes.


In closing, if you found this podcast helpful, please subscribe wherever you get your podcasts if you haven’t already done so. And forward this episode to others you think may be interested in today’s topic. This helps us serve more people like you.

I hope your thinking was stimulated by today’s show, to both reflect and to act by looking for relationship lessons in unusual places. All so that you will

find the joy God intends for you through your relationships. Because after all, You Were Made for This.

Well, that’s all for today. I look forward to connecting with you again next week. Goodbye for now.

A related episode you may want to listen to

113 “Our Choices Define Us, Not Our Personality”

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