My title is misleading. It attributes a poem to the stylish actress which she did not compose. “Time Tested Beauty Tips” was one of Hepburn’s favorite poems—she is said to have read it to her children on the last Christmas Eve she spent on earth. Legend credits her with its authorship, though in in her defense, she never claimed to have written it.
The poem begins with the following advice, which is patently more personal than cosmetic:
For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.
For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.
For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day.
For poise, walk with the knowledge you’ll never walk alone.
People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; Never throw out anybody.
The notion that one of Hollywood’s most beautiful actresses saw fit to stress to her children the superiority of spiritual beauty over physical beauty is itself very beautiful. While popular sentiment wanted her to have written “Time Tested Beauty Tips,” it was actually composed by the American humorist Sam Levenson for his granddaughter. (It appeared in his 1979 book, In One Era and Out the Other.)
“Never throw out anybody,” had special significance for Levenson. In a short piece he wrote called “The Fate of the World,” he stated his belief that “each newborn child arrives on earth with a message to deliver to mankind. Clenched in his little fist is some particle of yet unrevealed truth, some clue, which may solve the enigma of man’s destiny.”
India’s Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore—author of “Unending Love,” another of Hepburn’s favorite poems—expressed something similar when he commented that “Every child comes with the message that God is not yet discouraged of man.” And in the same vein, Carl Sandburg, one of America’s most celebrated poets, declared that “A baby is God’s opinion that the world should go on.” He went on to say that “Never will a time come when the most marvelous recent invention is as marvelous as a newborn child.”
Sociologist George Gilder reports an instance when a woman sharply rebuked a man for fathering five children. “Don’t you realize,” she remonstrated, that they are “consumers of valuable natural resources”? The father replied, “But don’t you realize that children are our most important natural resource!” Concern for the environment can have the effect of depreciating the value of new life. Yet, we are the custodians of the environment. The “garden” of Eden did not cultivate itself. Without humans there would be no horticulture, agriculture, or any other kind of culture.
Levenson is in good company concerning the value he places on the life of every newborn child. The child who comes into the world has a message. Correspondingly, we have an obligation to care for that child: “Our mission,” he writes, “is to exercise the kind of loving care which will prompt the child to open his fist and offer up his truth, his individuality, the irreducible atom of his self.” Faithful to his Jewish faith, Levenson stands by the philosophy expressed in Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5, which says that whoever destroys one life will be considered as having destroyed the whole world; and whoever saves one life will be credited with having saved the whole world.
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For those who might be interested, here’s the rest of “Time Tested Beauty Tips”:
Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you’ll find one at the end of your arm.
As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.
The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides.
The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mole, but true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows, and the beauty of a woman with passing years only grows.