My grandfather used to talk to us about things like working hard and being self reliant. Grandpa, whose mom died too young, whose father left him to be raised by his grandparents, who had seen war ravaged his home, who saw most of his children die before him because of diseases, and who faced other challenges, imbued in his children and grandchildren this idea of self worth. He felt that a legacy of his family was that being his descendant was to realize that we can achieve anything and that no challenge can stop us from it.
Now reality often makes us feel like buckling away from that resolve but I have found my Grandpa’s voice coming into my head when I need it the most. He has long since passed away but his lessons live on in my life.
He taught me that our self worth and self identity are not dependent on others. They certainly have some impact but they do not define us. Grandpa reminded us often that no one can better fill up your cup than you. How often do we place the responsibility of our happiness and well being on others? I have a feeling all of us do it to one degree or another. I have done it.
Sometimes Grandpa will scold us when we came home from school ( he and grandma use to babysit us because both my parents worked) and heard me whining because one of my friends upset me or I felt neglected or some other thing. He would look me straight in the eye and say, “Stop it!” I did. Then he proceeded to remind me about all the good things in my life and then ask me what had I done to contribute to the negative situation with my friends.
By teaching me to put the responsibility back on me, I was able to see that the problem was not so large and it helped me to think of positive ways that I could do to change the situation. Ninety nine percent of the time, my friendships got stronger, and one hundred percent of the time I was happier.
There is real power in what my grandfather taught me. It was all about taking on responsibility for one’s life. I know recently with my own life he would have been reminding me a lot about his counsel. I am glad his voice has come in more clearly to me.
Another great lesson from him came from how he went through a war where his land and family were put under a vicious enemy. They were put in the less known concentration camps in the island of Guam. He could have lived his life in hate and revenge because of the atrocities and injustices poured upon him and his family and loved ones. He did not.
My grandfather never lived in vengeance after the war and to his credit taught us a great lesson about moving on past our hurt and pain. Grandpa taught us by word and example that a life free of hate is a better way.
These lessons have become more real to me as I make some transitions in my life. I am proud of my heritage that I have inherited, that is deeper than blood, and find that the the wisdom of a grandfather is timeless.