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NPR Turns 50: Listeners Share Life Advice For The Big Milestone

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

As I'm sure you've heard, NPR is celebrating its 50th birthday this year. And in preparation, we asked listeners of a certain age for some advice and lessons learned from a half-century of living. Today we're going to hear from someone, and, well, we'll just let him introduce himself.

KARL COLON: My name is Karl Colon. That's C-O-L-O-N with a little accent.

MARTIN: His advice?

COLON: OK. Here we go. There is no escaping the fact that deep down, we know we are lost, lonely and small. The only reaction to that knowledge that can help anyone is mercy. It is not too much to ask, not too much to give, and makes all the difference in the world. I have seen this lesson in many places, but my favorite place was the first "Bill And Ted" movie, where President Lincoln declares...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BILL AND TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE")

ROBERT V BARRON: (As Abraham Lincoln) Be excellent to each other.

COLON: We make it complicated. We work too hard at it. Just be excellent to one another. That'll do. That'll take care of everything you need.

The truth is, I've been a librarian for about 20 years. Before that, I was an environmental lawyer. My job was to deal with hazardous waste cases. And one of the things that I learned getting to work around the state was I saw many cases in which we were applying the law appropriately. People had done some bad things. But I looked at them doing it in an environment where I realized that those people, and more importantly, their children, never really had a chance. They were growing up under such difficult circumstances that it wasn't really a shock that they ran into trouble. And I thought to myself, I have to do something to help people like that have opportunity, the opportunity for education, the opportunity to grow. My family left Puerto Rico so that we had an opportunity for education. I know what that means. And I became a librarian.

The ultimate goal of a librarian is to help build people to become the people that they want to be, right? Library doesn't tell you how to do it. The library asks you what you want and then tries to get you there. And it is one little way that I hope that I can provide that mercy because I - just speaking for myself, I feel lost, lonely and small plenty. But when I get to work with our community, as I say, I get to be lost, lonely and small in very good company.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MERCY MERCY ME (THE ECOLOGY)")

MARVIN GAYE: (Singing) Whoa, oh, mercy, mercy me.

MARTIN: That was Karl Colon in Yellow Springs, Ohio, sharing his life advice - practice mercy.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MERCY MERCY ME (THE ECOLOGY)")

GAYE: (Singing) Where did all the blue skies go? Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.