The title of this article is misleading. It attributes a poem to the stylish actress that she did not compose. It happened to be one of her favorite poems and she read it to her children on the very last Christmas Eve she spent on earth. Legend credits her with its authorship. In her defense, she never claimed to have written it. The poem begins with the following advice that 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 poem has been well received. 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. She was also admired for her courage. As a teenager, she was a carrier for the Belgian Underground Anti-Nazi movement during World War II. Popular sentiment wanted her to have written the poem. Nonetheless, Audrey Hepburn did not write what is popularly known as “Audrey Hepburn’s Beauty Tips”. It was originally composed by Sam Levenson and titled, “Time Tested Beauty Tips,” which he wrote for his grandchild.
The last four words, for Sam Levenson, known to North Americans mostly as a comedian, were of special significance for him. 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, said 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.” “Never will a time come,” he went on to say, “when the most marvelous recent invention is as marvelous as a newborn child.” A child is not an “inconvenience” nor is it “a consumer of valuable resources,” as is commonly said to be the case. 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!” Our concern for the environment has depreciated the value of new life. Yet, we are the custodians of the environment. The “garden” of Eden did not cultivate itself. Without humans there is 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 Sanhedrin 4:4 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.