Salaam and Greetings of Peace:
When I was around nine years old and in public elementary school, our teacher was a kind young woman who made a deep impression on me much later in life. The memory of her face and features is vague now. I think she wore glasses. But she was a very good teacher, and one day a student said, “You’re nice.” She said, “That’s because I live by one simple rule, and someday you may find that it’s the best way to live: God first, others second, myself third.”
I looked at her as if she were speaking a foreign language. “Who, what?” At nine, the only thought I had in my head was of myself. Now more than fifty years later, I finally understand that in those six words she had distilled the teachings of every Holy Book from the Bible to the Qur’an, and had also summed up the blessed life of all the Prophets of God, including Jesus and Muhammad (peace be unto them), and the loving-kindness and service of the Saints and Sufi Masters of every age. The entire length of the Sufi path is in those six words.
God first, others second, myself third.
I don’t remember her name, or know whether she is still alive, but may Allah bless her soul, who so long ago spoke wisdom to children.