What life lessons did your grandparents pass down to you?

Posted By on September 8, 2019

Hopefully grandparents are as appreciated ad much today as they were in generations past? I think most are, but as a new grandfather, it is hard to live up to the legacy left by grandparents grandparents-dayof previous generations.

I’m thankful for the 10-years I had with my grandparents on this year’s National Grandparents Day (September 8, 2019) … and know my children appreciated and “learned many lessons” from the 25-plus years they had with their grandparents.

An article by Jack Levine (4Gen.org) last week reflecting on his Grandma Minnie caught my eye and many of the “lessons” reminded me of the grandmothers/mothers in my past … and the many values they left for their children and grandchildren. The points may not have been recognized during their lifetime, but I realized that after reading these points that grandparents pass along life-shaping values that pay dividends long after they are gone.

Here is A Baker’s Dozen Life Lessons I learned at Grandma Minnie’s kitchen table …

Love knows no boundary. Keeping close to the people you love, and learning to love them without having to love everything they do, is the key to family strength. "You don’t have to be perfect to be loved.”

An open door is an open heart. Minnie’s kitchen table was a place where others came to eat and be fed spiritually. If a neighbor or their family had a problem, she was there for them. "If I needed them, GrandmaMinnieSSI’d hope for the same treatment."

Waste not; want not. Finishing our meals or saving leftovers for another time is one of the most compelling constants for our elders. Many remembered the pangs of deprivation, so therefore valued the food on their plates and the treasure of having enough to eat for everyone.

Charity begins at home. As little as they had, our grandparents always seemed to find a way to help others in need. Minnie had a tin can in which she would drop coins …"a little something for those with less than us." Their example of giving, both through volunteer time and money, provided the family a clear sense of appreciating the value of what we had.

Cleanliness is next to godliness. A clean home is the symbol of how we should conduct our lives in the sight of others. Minnie swept the sidewalk in front of her house almost every day. "When our guests come to our door, they should have a clear and welcoming path."

Progress comes in little steps. "A drop plus a drop fills up the pot" was among Minnie’s favorite phrases.

Laughter is the closest distance between two people. It’s a pleasure to enjoy the company of others and to hear a good joke, tell a witty story and listen to the folk tales of the old country. These are among life’s great gifts. "Frowns make more wrinkles than smiles,"

Honest compliments are among our most valued possessions. Giving credit when credit is due, and honoring the leadership of those whose energy and enthusiasm helps others, is important. "People shouldn’t assume you know about their good works. Tell them they are appreciated."

If there’s a problem, try to fix it. Minnie knew that "you’ll sit a long time with your mouth wide open before a roasted chicken will fly in." Ignoring a problem is neither smart nor sensible.

Don’t leave politics up to someone else. As an immigrant girl, Minnie felt the sting of discrimination and injustice. She was a suffragist as a young woman, and upon becoming a naturalized citizen, she voted for the first time in 1920 and never missed an election in her life.

Words without deeds are empty. Someone who makes a promise and doesn’t keep his word is an emotional thief. “It’s better to keep quiet than make a meaningless offer." Our children learn from us, not so much JackLevineSSby what we say but by what we do.

Patience pays dividends. Whether it was baking her famous cinnamon buns or preparing a full holiday dinner for 16, Minnie knew that the process required patience and persistence. "I like to cook because when I see the faces of satisfied eaters, I’m happy."

Resting is a reward for working hard. Minnie earned her rest, and made the time to relax, listen to music, observe nature or read for pleasure.

I’m not alone in receiving the gift from my elders’ life treasury. Family history is a living legacy. It’s not only the story of who our elders were, but it defines in many ways who we are.

Their sacrifices fueled our freedoms. Those who survived became advocates for causes and people who needed them. Their life’s mission was to make the world a bit better than the one they experienced.


Desultory - des-uhl-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee

  1. lacking in consistency, constancy, or visible order, disconnected; fitful: desultory conversation.
  2. digressing from or unconnected with the main subject; random: a desultory remark.
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