10 Life Lessons We Learned From Our Grandparents
Grandparents and grandchildren are natural allies.
In May, my grandpa (PopPop) emailed me those exact words.
I'm one of the few fortunate ones to have two sets of living grandparents. Their wisdom – on everything from which jobs to take to which significant others aren't worth our time – has filtered through generations of experience and disseminated to us grandchildren through visits, vacations, and, in my PopPop's case, emails.
My PopPop's been emailing his six grandchildren for about five years now. These emails cover everything from humor to spiritual wisdom to vacation scheduling, and they always end with:
In honor of his eloquence, I've compiled a handful of life lessons that he's passed on to us grandkids.
You have a purpose.
This piece of wisdom has been reiterated to me through all of my years by both sets of grandparents. Live your life in knowing that you do, in fact, have a purpose. And, as you pursue this purpose, keep your heart fixed on the path.
You can do anything you set your mind to.
I've brought a few career woes to my PopPop through the years, and he consistently tells me: "I've always said that you can do anything you put your mind to, Abigail." This piece of encouragement, especially coming from a man who's sacrificed so much for his family, fills my heart with warmth. On your worst day, there's someone who still believes that you can do absolutely anything and be absolutely anyone that you want to be.
You are loved beyond measure.
I hope that you've been showered in love as deeply as my grandparents have showered me. And, in every letter, text message (really!), voicemail, and face-to-face encounter, I'm reminded of how true this is. Yes, your parents love you – but your grandparents take so much pride and joy in the legacy that you continue.
Everyone has a story to be told.
If you've never taken the time to sit down and ask your grandparents about their years growing-up, make plans to hear a few stories. You'll come across facts that you never knew were part of your family line. In the same way that these stories deserve attention, the stories of others are worth listening to and respecting. Don't assume you have all the answers.
Give the benefit of the doubt.
Be the kind of person that trusts people completely until they've given you reason not to – not the other way around. My grandparents, especially on my Mom's side, have taught me that most people are inherently good. My great-grandmother was rescued from the 1915 Armenian genocide by Syrians – a group of people that weren't particularly fond of Armenians at the time. But, without the Syrians, our family line wouldn't exist.
It never hurts to save money.
My grandparents on both sides are world-class budgeters. They save in a way that they always had the means to spoil their grandchildren, the memories of which all of us kids are especially grateful. Through their example, we've been encouraged to spend wisely and save intentionally.
Don't take yourself too seriously.
PopPop is great at this one. Here's a note he sent this year to his grandchildren:
"I have finally figured it out! The hours and hours, over the course of the last five years, that I have spent writing emails...are not to blame for the carpal tunnel [that has] developed in both of my hands. Instead, I have determined that it's the 5 hours/week that I spend at the gym...So I have decided to give up exercise.
But, because I am very health-conscious, I pondered what to do. I...finally decided to go on a chocolate diet, rather than work out. Chocolate-covered raisins, cherries, and strawberries, along with chocolate-covered almonds and peanuts, should meet the recommended health standards for fruit and nuts...To go one step further, chocolate bars also contain milk, which is dairy and gives me the fat and calories I need. So, I figure that candy bars must be considered a health food."
Live with a grateful heart.
Here's an exerpt from an email PopPop sent reminding his grandchildren of our blessings:
"If you have money in a savings account or in your wallet... you are among the top 8% of the world's wealthy.
If you have food in the fridge, clothes, a roof over your head, and a place to sleep... you are richer than 75% of this world.
If you have never experienced the danger of war, imprisonment, torture, or starvation... you are ahead of 500 million people.
If you can read this message, you are more fortunate than over 2 billion people in the world who cannot read at all."
Find the good and the grace in every situation.
Everything you do has a consequence, good or bad.
"You are not a product of your circumstances, you are a product of your decisions."
PopPop writes about this idea pretty frequently, so I figured it was certainly a lesson he wants us to hold onto. Our decisions have consequences that don't just affect us; they affect those around us.
No amount of social media beats a good ol' face-to-face conversation.
I couldn't write a piece about life lessons and not include this grandparent staple. Take this anecdote that PopPop shared about his recent trip to the mall:
"There were about 10 people [waiting in the seating area], one of which was an older man of my generation. I could tell by his silver hair, wrinkled face, age spots, and – [there was] no device in his hands. The other 8 people were of varying ages, probably 6 to 40, who were all sitting with their heads down, fingers moving faster and faster, never looking up, and not saying a word. The old man and I just looked at each other, shaking our heads left to right in wonderment. When all had left, we agreed about the "different world" we were living in. And we said good bye to each other–imagine that!"
We have never, in history, been as connected to the world as we are now. That world keeps going, though – and spending in-person time with the ones you love may not be an option as long. So, for this reason, be intentional about paying attention, talking to, and loving on your family members.
And, a final note from this man of wisdom: