Learning from your Grandparents

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Learning from your Grandparents

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I knew only one of my grandparents. My grandmother on my mother’s side who we all called Oma arrived in Canada in 1952; and when I first met her, she was old. She remained old until she died at the age of 99 years. I remember the spinning wheel she would use. She saved the wool from cast-off wool garments and used it to knit slippers.

My Oma had some great adventures in her life. There were many sorrows as well as joys. We children were always greeted in such a way that we felt special and appreciated. She always seemed excited to meet with us. It is vital that a child feels important and wanted—my Oma added a new dimension to that. She had stories to tell of concentration camps, flights from advancing armies in World War I and World War II, hunger and, always, her faith in God. She could speak several languages and never stopped working. I often wondered how a person with so little and who had lost so much could remain calm and serene in her life.

I recall my youngest daughter standing beside Oma as she used the spinning wheel. Oma always had a candy for her it seems. Since my daughter was small and could only speak English—and that was one language my Oma never did learn—I wondered how they could carry on a conversation. One day I asked my daughter if she understood what Oma said. She said, “No, but sometimes I say yes and sometimes I say no.” That seemed to be enough for the two of them to be very comfortable with one another. There was something about Oma that attracted everyone.

A blessing

Grandparents are a special blessing from God to little children—just as little children are a blessing to their grandparents. Psalm 128:6 includes as a blessing—seeing one’s own children’s children. Proverbs 17:6 states that children’s children are the crown of old men. It is true that grandparents are not the parents, but in many cases, grandparents have had much to do in the raising of children. Psalm 103:17 speaks of God’s mercy to one’s children’s children.

Deuteronomy 4:9 admonishes grandparents to teach the things they have seen and learned to their children and their grandchildren. Generations ago, changes were usually very slow. Not many were highly educated and the pace of life was different. Today we live in a different world. Information is easily obtainable and societies are changing as never before. A grandparent needs to be very careful not to interfere with the responsibility of the parents, but there is a very important role to play. I have observed grandparents walking with their little grandsons or granddaughters. They have time to pay close attention to the little ones, and they can provide a whole different scope or range of teaching to the children.

Grandparents are the most stable individuals in our society. They exude patience, calmness and thoughtfulness. God expects them to have learned to be diligent in learning the lessons life has taught. Grandparents have the luxury of time to show the value of stopping to smell the roses in this busy world. Not all grandparents have attained the lofty status of being wise and respected, but my Oma did and in my observations most grandparents have qualified themselves for this honor. I do not remember many physical gifts that my Oma gave to me, but I will never forget the lessons in humility, patience and giving attention to others that I experienced. The most valuable gifts we receive in life are not physical, but rather, the unseen and spiritual ones.

Humility is a character trait that is vital if we are to enter into eternal life. In 1 Peter 5:5-7 we find that “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Humility toward God is the vital ingredient that allows Him to lead us and direct our minds. He gives grace to the humble. Jesus reflected this teaching in the beatitudes of Matthew 5. Here we read about “the poor in spirit,” “those who mourn,: “the meek,” “the merciful,” “the pure of heart” and “the peacemakers.” All of these words describe a person of great humility. By the time old age arrives, those lessons are usually learned. There is an old saying: “We get too soon old and too late smart.” The point is that we do get smart in old age and that is the value of a grandparent. Grandparents lead by example and not commands.

Learning the lessons of life

Proverbs 16:31 states: “The silver-haired head is a crown of glory, if it is found in the way of righteousness.” There is a condition implied here. The senior is to be obedient to God. Psalm 119:172 reveals that “all God’s commandments are righteousness”—that is, they reveal what righteousness it. During our lives we are to have learned to sort the wheat from the chaff and to grasp that which is truly valuable—and that is the way of God. A grandparent, then, also has the responsibility to be honorable—that is, his or her deeds make the person worthy of honor. When God inspired Moses to write that people are to “rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man” (Leviticus 19:32), He stated this with the understanding that a senior person would have learned the lessons of life.

My Oma experienced the death of some of her children. She had to send some to a foreign land for fear of World War II, never to see them again. She lost everything that she ever worked for and saved. I remember that she was the one who would search out the dried pieces of bread that no one wanted to eat in our home—she ate them without butter—just as she had done for years during and after the war. She shed many tears as so many others have also had to do. She earned her position of love and admiration within our family. She knew what the scripture meant when Job wrote, “Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1). She did not just lie down and quit in the face of adversity—she acted. In the concentration camps, she was known as one who could massage sore and aching bodies. She boldly approached Russian soldiers for the safety of her children. Her hands were busy until the day she died.

I have seen my own mother take on the role of Oma. She is 92 years old now and revered by our family. She, too, has passed the tests of life and is passing lessons learned on to her children. Lessons of faith in God and constant effort in solving the problems life has to offer. Our family is very fortunate to have four generations alive at the same time. My mother is Oma to about 17 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren. Recently the fifth generation has arrived and in a few years, there will be more. That makes her a great-great-grandmother. She truly is a great, great Oma. She is wise and a very valuable part of our family.

I am an Opa (grandfather). I, too, am the only grandparent my grandchildren will ever know. It is hard to think of any greater blessing in life than to have my grandchildren write about me one day and say, “He was a great, great Opa.” May that blessing be yours, too, one day!

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