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How Can You Make the World a Better Place?

June 8, 2019

Polly Taylor, left, greeting my husband and me on our wedding day, 1976. I’m sure she was giving my husband some great advice. Polly wore her hair long and straight for many years. The girl on the right was also in our house church group, I don’t remember her name. Photo by Galen Lehman.

Another Way for week of June 7, 2019

How Can You Make the World a Better Place?

If I could have as big of impact on others as my friend Polly had, I would feel my life to be worthwhile.

Her full name was as deliciously long as her influence and reach: Pauline “Polly” Elizabeth Hash Taylor. She died last November at 97 years of age. Her memorial service brought friends, relatives and community members from a rich variety of places to reminisce, tell stories, and celebrate her home going to be with God.

Polly circa 2004.

She was a charter member of our congregation. She loved watching birds, naming and growing flowers, and traveling to national parks. By occupation, she was a teacher who first taught second grade, and then took on seventh grade science—spanning over 30 years. Her students sometimes called her “Mother Nature” and “Tree Hugger.”

She took the mission of the “Peace House Church” she belonged to (a small group ministry) so seriously that for many years, every single Sunday during the “prayers of the people,” she would find many ways to beseech God that we really could use peace in the world. To me it was always a ray of hope, even in the darkest of times. In the early 60s she was in Washington D.C. and heard Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech.” She was also active in the community-wide interdenominational Bible Study Fellowship.

I wrote a tribute to Polly in a book published by Bethany House, Becoming a Better Friend (1988). If anyone epitomized that title, it was Polly. I’ll share part of it here:

“A cross stitched sign hangs right inside the front door of Polly’s house, in a place where you normally don’t look until you’re ready to leave. ‘A well-kept house is the sign of a misspent life.’ I liked Polly’s motto even more after she told me the story behind the sign. She had a relative whose house always looked lovely, and Polly was inclined to apologize profusely for her own house whenever this relative came to visit. One day the relative brought Polly the little cross-stitched motto.

“Before you assume her house is a pigpen, you should know that it is not. The living room is a picture of hominess, beauty, and good taste. Well-used books, and a lifetime of mementoes line one whole wall. Another section is a montage of family photos. Still another features lithographs, art from friends, signed posters. A low table in the middle may sport a huge bouquet of fresh lilacs, or nothing but fresh bread and grape juice for a small group communion service.

“Would people whose house is more orderly take offense at her posted motto? That’s doubtful, because all Polly really seems to be saying ‘If things seem chaotic or dusty here, it is because I have other priorities.’”

I admired how Polly cared for her husband as he became an invalid later in life. She opened her home to almost anyone needing a place to stay, as some of those at the memorial testified. One year, Polly, her husband, and another dear couple from our church took turns hosting every person in our small congregation for a no-strings-attached scrumptious meal with mashed potatoes, gravy and butter beans. We teased them that they could have opened a diner; Polly preferred to keep it a labor of love. Polly was the kind of person to whom I could take a special prayer request, knowing that she’d really pray and care about the outcome.

Polly at the 2008 wedding of our oldest daughter. Isn’t her smile beautiful?

Polly had exactly the opposite of a misspent life. She stayed lovely in person and spirit even after she stopped knowing who you were. I still miss her beautiful smile. There are many other “Polly’s” in our world and I thank God for so many lovely and loving people. What am I doing to make the world a better place?


Do you have a motto or sign in your home that people comment on? I’d love to know what turns their heads, or changes perspective.

Or, tell us about someone who has influenced your life or thinking. Comment here or send to me privately at the email below.


Plus! I still have several copies of Becoming a Better Friend. Some of it feels dated but I’d be happy to send copies as long as they last. Send $3 for postage to Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834, or email comments to

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  



  1. Polly was a beautiful person, and you are fortunate to have had her in your life. I was a little startled by your opening lines: “If I could have as big of impact on others as my friend Polly had, I would feel my life to be worthwhile.” Of course, you know your life is worthwhile, touching others with your books, your work as an editor, and your family and church life.

    The people most influential in my life are my close female relatives, encased between the covers of my memoir. We are both blessed to have great mentors and friends.

  2. Marian thanks for your comment and for your challenge regarding whether I felt my life was worthwhile. I do–thank you–but I was particularly struck by the wide variety of folks who came and told their stories of Polly. I can only think of one young person we took in and shared our home with when our daughter was in 8th grade. I don’t have students who felt their lives were impacted, like those who spoke of Polly. Certainly I have friends and mentors, but blessed be the persons whose influence reaches so wide in personal and meaningful ways.

    And you can be thankful to have your memoir and tributes paid in the forthcoming book!

  3. Elaine permalink

    Do you remember the Christian bookstores back in the 50’s that had glass painted motto plaques with small chains around the edge? There was one in our home growing up that said “The family that prays together, stays together.” I now have it in our home and I believe it to be so true. I’m thankful for the godly influence of my parents. Today my mother celebrates her 95th birthday and still has a very good mind. My dad went to his heavenly home in 2012.

    • Well sure I remember little mottoes painted like that and yes of course “the family that prays together” one. I think Mom and Dad had that on a light switch. 🙂 Thanks for sharing! My mother turns 95 at the end of July; her mind is good too–just hearing is very limited. My father died in 2006. I treasure each and every comment here so thanks for adding your experience. 🙂

  4. What a special tribute to a beautiful person and treasured friend!

  5. I’m glad you enjoyed reading this, Trisha. Thanks for commenting.

  6. Beverly Silver permalink

    Thanks, Melodie. I am forwarding this on to Ginger and Stin!

  7. Beverly, thanks for sharing it. I bet Stin would have his own stories to tell. 🙂

  8. Kathy permalink

    My husband and I were at Polly’s memorial. Her son and my husband were best friends through school. We both felt the love and the deep appreciation to Polly at the memorial. And we were also recipients of it during our school years. And, I love to open one of your emails and read about something that means so much to me and that I have some sort of connection to. Thank You!

    • I love your comment and reflections–thanks for adding your thoughts and memories and how you knew Polly. One of her grandsons was a big helper on several projects at our house–he seems to have her generous spirit as well. 🙂

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