I Live Four Lives at a Time

Thompson, Alice, 1910-


  • Alice Thompson talks about her life as a mother, a wife, a member of society, and a worker and explains the importance of understanding, love and compassion to a happy life.
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And now, This I Believe, a series of living philosophies presented in the hope they may help to strengthen and enrich your life. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Mrs. Alice Thompson is the publisher and editor of Seventeen magazine, which deals primarily with the tastes and problems of young people. But she has more than an objective interest in youth. She is the mother of a 19-year-old daughter and a 22-year-old son. She also has two grandchildren. Hear now her creed.
Everyone who has past his first few birthdays has some kind of guideline or things in which he believes. It's hard to put them in words that mean anything. I live a life of four dimensions--a wife, a mother, a worker, an individual in society. Diversified roles, yes; but they are well knit by two major forces: an attempt to discover, understand, and accept other human
beings; and a belief in my responsibility toward others. The first began in my childhood when my father and I acted out Shakespeare. He refused to let me merely parrot Hamlet's brooding soliloquy, Lady Macbeth's sleepwalking scene, or Cardinal Woolsey's self-analysis. He made a fascinating game of helping me understand the motivations behind the poetic words.
In college, a professor further sparked this passionate curiosity about the essence of others and, by his example, transmuted it into a deep concern, a sense of responsibility that sprang not from stern Calvinistic principles, but from an awareness of all I received--and must repay with gladness.
I believe this acceptance, this tenderness one has for others, is impossible without an acceptance of self. Just when or where I learned that
the full quota of human weakness and strength was the common property of each of us, I don't know. But somewhere in my late twenties, I grew able to admit my own drives--and, rid of the anguished necessity of re-costuming them, I was free to face them, and recognize that they were neither unique nor uncontrollable.
The rich and happy life I lead every day brings new witness to the validity of my own philosophy, for me. Certainly it works in marriage. Any real marriage is a constant understanding and acceptance, coupled with mutual responsibility for one another's happiness. Each day I go out strengthened by the knowledge that I am loved and love.
In the mother-child relationship, those same two forces apply. Words are useless to describe my efforts to know my own children.
But my great debt to them for their understanding of me is one I have often failed to repay. How can I overvalue a youngster with the thoughtfulness, the imagination to always phone when a late arrival might cause worry? To always know how to reassure. How can I repay the one who dashed into adulthood far too young but has carried all of its burden with a firm, joyous spirit?
My job itself is a reaffirmation of that by which I live. Very early in my working life, I was a small cog in a big firm. Emerging from a tiny job, I found a strange frightening world. Superficially, everyone was friendly. But beneath the surface were raging suspicion, distrust; the hand ever ready to ward off--or deliver--the knife in the back. For years I thought I was in a world of
monstrous people. Then I began to know the company's president. What he had been I have no way of knowing. But at seventy, he was suspicious, distrusting, sure that no one was telling him the truth. He had developed a technique of pitting all of us against each other. Able to see the distortion he caused, I youthfully declared that if I every ran a business, it would be on the reverse principle.
For the last two years, I have had that opportunity, and had the joy of watching people--widely different people, too--learn to understand
each other, accept each other, feel mutually responsible.
My trials and errors have really synthesized into one great belief, which is that I am not alone in my desire to reach my fellow man. I believe the human race is inherently cooperative and concerned about its brother.
That was Alice Thompson, publisher and editor of Seventeen magazine, who has combined marriage and career and found happiness through her belief in other human beings.