Just finished an inspiring book from 2008 titled, “This I Believe II,” the print version of an oral philosophy series that ran on National Public Radio. It caught my eye one day, peering out from a Little Free Library along my path through town.

“This I Believe” was originally a series broadcast by radio legend Edward R. Murrow in the 1950s. At the turn of the millennium, Jay Allison and Dan Gediman resurrected the idea. In the book’s introduction, Allison wrote, “What would you say in 500 words to capture a core principle that guides your life? Can you name a belief that underlies your actions? In the discovered truths of your experience, what abides?”

The book contains 75 short essays, from the unknown to the famous, from high school students to Nobel Prize winners. You can learn more at thisibelieve.org, but I thought, given the dispiriting times we’re living through, you might enjoy, or even be inspired by, a selection of “I believe” statements from a wide range of life experiences. Here are as many as I could fit:

I believe in fighting fear. … I believe it is fear we should be fighting, not the “other.”
Terry Ahwal

I believe there is magic in Christmas and the music that celebrates it, because it brings us closer together and closer to our own hearts.
Steve Banko

I believe in strange blessings, because taking away my house brought me home.
Robin Baudier
Hurricane Katrina survivor

I believe in semi-permanent hair dye: the kind that lets you have a few wacky purple-headed weeks in the depressing months of winter term. Semi-permanent hair dye is about finding security within unlimited freedom.
Amelia Baxter-Stoltzfus

I believe the same depressions that pin me to the mat so often also serve a bigger purpose in my life. I believe the purpose of suffering is to strengthen us and help us understand the suffering of others.
Andy Blowers

I believe in improvising. It’s exciting; it’s an adventure, a challenge, and a chance to be creative. … I believe there is no one way to do things. The way that works for me is the way that works right now. But that might change tomorrow.
Alice Brock
of Alice’s Restaurant

I believe in sticking my nose into other people’s business. … I believe it’s time I started sticking my nose, not just in the business of my neighbors, but in the business of the world. … I helped kill that kid, like everyone else, in the name of minding my own business.
Brigid Brockway

I believe in the power of failure. Success is boring. … First-time success is usually a fluke. First-time failure, by contrast, is expected; it is the natural order of things. Failure is how we learn.
Jon Carroll

I believe that memory is never lost, even when it seems to be, because it has more to do with the heart than the mind. … Remembering has to do with turning the oven off before leaving the house, but memory is nurtured by emotion. It springs from a deeper well, safe from dementia and the passage of time.
Christine Cleary

I believe we have the power to create our own happiness. I believe the real magic in the world is done by humans. I believe normal life is extraordinary.
Wayne Coyne

I believe in grief. … I believe both the caregivers and the cared-for should be free to scream and cry and fall to the floor — if not actually, then at least in the heart. I believe that grief, fully expressed, will change over time into something less overpowering, even granting us a new understanding, a kind of double vision that comprehends both the beauty and fragility of life at the same time.
Cortney Davis

I believe in asking hard questions and arguing about them. … We are duty-bound to confront moral dilemmas and scrutinize the implications of our actions. For me, this is the lesson of the Holocaust. We must hotly debate the political and ethical questions posed by today’s complicated world and we should sometimes disagree, avoiding the dangers of “group-think,” while striving for compromise.
Tamar Duke-Cohan

I believe how we treat the people we dislike the most and understand the least — Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example — says a lot about the freedoms we value in America: religion, speech, and personal liberty. And all of these freedoms rely on one thing: tolerance.
Joel Engardio
former Jehovah’s Witness

I believe in upholding reverence for all life. I believe that humanity has a responsibility to the Earth, and to the life that we share our experience with. … I believe that my connection to all life forms prevent me from sitting back and watching this catastrophe. … In honor of all life, I am dedicating myself to preventing this worldwide ecological crisis.
Michelle Gardner-Quinn
who wrote this for her environmental studies class at the University of Vermont, two days before she was abducted and murdered in 2006

I believe that by striving for a world that accepts its oneness, we can transform wars, intolerance, religious persecution, and political extremism into memory and maybe even folklore.
Sgt. Ernesto Haibi
Iraq war veteran

My job is to take care of my customers at the counter in a small Texas diner, but I also believe we’re in this world to take care of each other. … Can one act of friendliness start to generate peace? I believe it can. Peace begins with one person but spreads like warmed syrup. When I connect with my neighbors, they return it in kind.
Ivory Harlow

I believe all that is behind the universe is conspiring to help us — if we will humble ourselves enough to let it.
Kevin Kelly

I believe in telling children the truth. I believe this is vital for their understanding of the world, their confidence, and the development of their morals and values. … I believe that my being truthful with our children has paid off, because I’m pretty sure that now they are honest with me.
Martha Leathe

Every person is precious. This I believe with my whole heart. Each time I keep watch over patients and protect them when they’re most vulnerable, my faith comes alive. It catches breath: Spiritus.
Dr. Isabel Legarda

I believe there are many ways we can hold one another captive. It might be with a gun, an army, a holy book, a law, an invisible free market hand. It doesn’t matter how we do it, who we do it to, or why. There is no escaping it: We ourselves become captives whenever we hold one another in captivity.
James Loney
former hostage in Iraq

I believe in using the turbulence in my life. I learned this studying fish. … There are natural streamlines in our lives. I find by letting go, I can harness the complex currents of my life to propel me forward. It was the fish my dad introduced me to that finally taught me this.
Jimmy Liao

I believe in the infinite variety of human expression. … I believe we must look beyond the voice we’ve been assigned and find our place among the tones and timbre of human expression.
Yo-Yo Ma
cellist

I believe in being myself. I believe that I — not my stereotypes — should define who I am and what actions I take in life.
Kamaal Majeed
high school student

I believe that people are overwhelmingly trustworthy and deeply okay. … I see that most people share a similar moral compass: They play fair, they give each other a break, and they generally get along. I see that pretty much everyone operates by that Golden Rule thing.
Craig Newmark
founder of Craigslist

I believe that God does not know the future. … I believe that the fate of our world is not locked in by Scripture, but that the future is shaped by the laws of nature and by what we humans voluntarily do during our time on this planet. … Physics does not explain the difference between sound waves and a song, or the difference between sex and love. Physics explains my body, but not my soul. … I believe soul inspires me to make decisions to diminish pain and increase love in the lives I touch. Lots of times I try, but fail. On a good day, I actually get it right! And God is pleasantly surprised.
Bill Nunan

I watch what I do to see what I truly believe. Belief and faith are not just words. It’s one thing for me to say I’m a Christian, but I have to embody what it means. I have to live it. The only way I know what I believe is by keeping watch over what I do.
Sr. Helen Prejean
author of “Dead Man Walking”

When I watch the Earth roll by, I realize I believe in optimism. It would be hard to believe that there is no hope for Earth from up here. The International Space Station is a collaboration of 16 nations. … The space station itself is the embodiment of where we can go as a global society. … I wish that everyone could see the world from my perspective. I believe that more people would be optimistic about our future.
Dan Tani
astronaut, from Lombard, Illinois

A lot of wisdom here, not to mention strong conviction. I’m thankful to whoever left this book in the Little Free Library. In his introduction, Jay Allison quotes Edward R. Murrow from 1951:

“We are living in an age of confusion. A lot of us have traded in our beliefs for bitterness and cynicism, or for a heavy package of despair, or even a quivering portion of hysteria. Opinions can be picked up cheap in the marketplace, while such commodities as courage and fortitude and faith are in alarmingly short supply. Around us all there is an enveloping cloud of fear.”

Allison asks, “Sound familiar? We too are divided by fear — fear of the other, and even of our neighbor. And our media thrives by feeding it. We remain haunted by the same dilemmas, trapped between hope and fear. Our team chose to revive ‘This I Believe’ precisely to counter the divisiveness, the anger, the prejudice, and to raise a flag for thoughtfulness.”

What do you believe? I’ve narrowed mine down to three:

I believe that life is a journey.

I believe that everyone has a story and each deserves to be heard.

I believe in the extraordinary ordinary.

I’ll probably write about all three. Over the past three decades, I already have.

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