The world we live in is certainly different from the one our grandparents were born into. Our resources, challenges, technology and opportunities have changed dramatically. But one thing has remained the same — we are still people. In our hearts, we remain the same kind of creatures our ancestors were.
Following are 10 things our grandparents – if they were around – probably wish we knew.
1. How to cook one’s own food from scratch. In the days of yesteryear, people cooked whole foods and ate at home. For most people in their generation, eating out was a treat, and buying a lot of ready-made food at a supermarket was unheard of.
2. How to fully commit. Past generations believed in marrying for life, devoting themselves to families forever, clinging to their ideals, and always keeping their word. They didn’t discard relationships or ideals when they ceased to be convenient. It was common in our predecessors’ day to devote oneself to a vocation, a lifestyle and a religion.
Our older relatives grew up to understand that commitment is a gift.
3. How to not quit. Our grandparents did not give up. They did what they had to do, because they had to do it. The old adage about trying and trying again rang true in their day, and it led to accomplishment, satisfaction and pride.
4. How to work hard. A strong work ethic was a cornerstone of our grandparents’ lives. They knew that even though a person might be lacking in education, luck, talent, connections, good looks, intellect or money — it could be made up for with hard work. They put their nose to the grindstone and made astonishing things happen.
Even if we can’t dance, don’t understand calculus, got rejected by Harvard, have a big nose, or weren’t born with a silver spoon in our mouth, our grandparents may wish we knew that none of those things matters as much as hard work.
5. How to write thank-you letters. People who gave gifts to our grandparents never had to wonder whether or not they received it or if it was appreciated. Rules about thank-you letters were strict. Children in some households were not allowed to play with the new toys that came in the mail from relatives until they had written a proper thank-you. Most of our grandparents were brought up to consider it rude and ungrateful to accept a gift without sending a formal expression of gratitude.
There are probably a few grandparents out there today who would love to receive a sincere note of thanks.
6. How to pay attention and truly listen. Once upon a time, orators delivered very long speeches. Ordinary people would pack up the kids and a picnic lunch and listen for hours. Attention spans have gradually diminished over generations. In addition to orations, lectures, concerts and political debates, our elders were able to open their ears and their hearts and hear what was being said in person.
If they were alive, our grandparents would probably like to see us let go of entertainment-seeking behavior and make the effort to pay attention to that which is likely to be of consequence and meaning. Their personal stories might not ever become as popular as kitten videos on social media, but could turn out to be worth our while.
7. How to make do. Our grandparents grew up not demanding to have the best of everything. Instead of replacing their belongings when they became scuffed or unfashionable or showing signs of wear or no longer matching, they tried to use them as long as they could. They purchased the best quality they could afford, and made the best use of it as possible.
If our grandparents could talk to us about consumerism, they might want us to know that having fancy new stuff is overrated. In the end, it’s just stuff.
8. How to fix things. Calling a repairman was not always the first option, and throwing it out was always the last resort. Grandpa could string a few wires together and shore up a loose part to keep a portable radio or lawn mower running. Grandma could fix holes in mittens and rig up a splint on the dog’s leg if she had to.
The older generation may like to see people today learning repair skills. There is a lot of ingenuity and creativity in the world that can be put to good use in this way.
9. How to make and supply our own goods. Our grandparents’ generation prided itself on self-sufficiency. Many of them made laundry soap, cut firewood, butchered hogs, knit mittens, built wooden furniture, hand-tied animal halters, sewed clothing, quilted blankets, dug wells, constructed toys, put up fences and created décor.
We are probably not going to do as much for ourselves nowadays as our ancestors did. But they likely would wish we were a little more adept at making our own.
10. How to focus on what matters most. Our grandparents could prioritize.
To paraphrase an illustration used by life coach Stephen Covey, try filling a bucket with large rocks, small rocks, gravel and sand.
Imagine the big chunks are the important things in life — family, health, faith and values. The smaller the pieces of rock and particles, the less important.
If you start by filling the bucket with sand and gravel, there won’t be room for the large rocks. But if you place the big chunks into the bucket first, the smaller pieces can fill in the spaces around them.
Our grandparents would want that for us.
We all stand the chance of improving our lives by incorporating some lessons from the lives of our elders. Their wisdom and time-proven successes are of great value. By trying some of these things that they would wish we knew, we might well improve our lives, enhance the lives of those around us, and make our predecessors proud.
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