My grandma may not have been an educated woman—she left school before finishing the sixth grade for health reasons—but she was wise. I recently shared with my family some of the wisdom stories she had left us:
- Family is important. Every year she went up north from Brooklyn, Michigan to Harrisville State Park, and we often joined her. I never knew why we went to this particular state park in Michigan. I later learned that her father made my grandpa promise to bring my grandma home to the small town of Spruce every year so she could visit the family; Harrisville was only a few miles from her childhood home.
- Life is something to enjoy. My grandma loved the Detroit Tigers; she found great joy in following them, no matter how bad they were. I remember watching many Tigers games with her. As we watched the players warm up before one game, my grandma, who was in her 70s at the time, said, “That looks interesting,” and proceeded to stretch right in the middle of her living room, imitating the players she saw on TV.
- Simplicity is beautiful. She made crafts that were simple and charming. She would collect pebbles from the beach in Harrisville, attach googly eyes to them, arrange them in rows, and label the display a “rock concert.” At Halloween, she would hand out lollipops that were wrapped in tissues to look like ghosts. One Halloween, she taped a dry leaf by its stem to each ear and went as Mother Nature.
- Care for creation. When my grandma was with some of her friends, a fly was buzzing about, annoying everyone. They all swatted at the fly, trying to eliminate the nuisance. My grandma snatched it out of the air with her hand, walked over to the window, and whispered, “Now you go outside, because I don’t think they like you,” before releasing it.
- We need faith. My family didn’t always attend church regularly. But whenever we visited my grandma’s house, we expected to walk up the hill from her house to the Brooklyn Presbyterian Church. On Sunday mornings, she would turn the radio on really loud to make sure we all got up in time to get ready for church. Even when she came to visit us, she expected us to take her to church, and we always did, no matter how long it had been since our last visit.
As I shared these stories—and many others—with my family, we talked about the wisdom she had left us: the importance of family, the values of kindness and compassion, the necessity of finding joy in the simplest things. We all agreed that my grandma lived and breathed the Golden Rule.
But the more we talked and shared fond memories—and talked about the many challenges she had overcome in her life—we all began to realize that the wisdom she left us wasn’t found in the stories themselves, but in the connections we formed with one another in sharing them.
Perhaps that’s the true wisdom of time: when we share stories with another person, we enter into a relationship with her or him, and this relationship helps us grow in empathy, compassion, and, ultimately, wisdom.
All this week here at Catechist’s Journey, we’ll be sharing stories of wisdom learned from our elders. We’re all inspired by Sharing the Wisdom of Time by Pope Francis and Friends. We hope you are too and want to read your stories of elders who have impacted you in a positive way! Visit www.sharingwisdomoftime.com/sharing to get started.