My next 10 blogposts were inspired by our grandparents, members of the Great Generation. These lessons have helped me focus during this unprecedented time of 2020. They remind me of our roots as human beings. I hope they help you reflect on all the good in 2020 and give you hope for what’s possible in 2021.
In 2018 when the last of our living grandparents passed, my husband and I spent a lot of time talking about how much we learned from them. We both spent a lot of time with our grandparents growing up, naturally we talked about all the things we learned from them that we as parents want to pass onto our own daughter. Fast forward to March 2020, we had NO idea that we would be living in a pandemic. We had NO idea that life as we knew it, life as our daughter knew it, would change so abruptly. But, as parents, who does? That’s part of the fun and adventure of parenting. And Life. Right?!
In order to look forward, we have to look back, we have to reflect, contemplate, and ponder. These 10 lessons are not just lessons my husband and I learned from our grandparents, these are lessons our own children are learning from us RIGHT NOW, during this lifetime.
Let me first introduce you to our grandparents.
Henry James Newhard was born on June 18, 1915 in Catasauqua, Pennsylvania in an upstairs flat above a Chinese Laundry. Friends called him Henry, yet to us, he was known as Bop. Upon meeting Bop you would never have known his life journey endured great challenges, yet he was always joyful. His stories always offered a simpler perspective in our hectic lives.
Margaret McIntyre Matich was born on August 4, 1925 in Elsinore, California on a walnut and apricot ranch. In her youth, friends called her Maggie, she grew up not liking the nickname much. To us, she was known as Gram, or Mama Matich by the youngest of her grandchildren. Despite much family turmoil and circumstances beyond her control, she remained positive and optimistic.
Lesson 1: Find the Joy in Life
Where does joy come from? It comes from within. No matter what, Bop, never let you see him sad. It’s not that he didn’t feel sad, but he always had something to be joyful about. Bop had a mindset to not let things stress him out, and it showed. These days we call this Grit. We call it resilience. Bop didn’t have an easy life by any of today’s standards. Growing up in the early 1900s his father worked for the railroad while his mother took care of Bop and his 2 siblings. His first home was a small flat above a Chinese laundry with no indoor electricity or plumbing. Yet, he always had friends to play with from dawn until dusk. Highlights of his free time were riding the cab of locomotives because his father worked for the railroad. Nowadays people pay hundreds of dollars to ride a refurbished train at Christmastime, known as The Polar Express. Another joy for Bop was his violin teacher showing up in a 1924 Dodge, which back then was a rare gem, to own a car.
Gram grew up during the Great Depression. She recalled people coming to work on her parent’s walnut and apricot ranch, not for money, but for a meal. She found joy in the small moments, such as cracking the walnut shells and eating the nuts raw. She was an only child, yet she found ways to entertain herself. Often, she would immerse herself in books. Reading was a lifelong joy of hers. She loved reading so much and saw the importance of reading, that she gave much of her wealth to her town’s library.
As we enter the last month of 2020, reflect on what has been joyful about this year. Find your joy. Spread it.
I hope you will come back to read Lesson 2!