Remember when you first heard the song “What the World Needs Now Is Love,” recorded and made popular by Jackie DeShannon in 1965? This song was important then but maybe more so now. If you feel like I do, that things aren’t getting any better with time, you might just be ready to jump in and make your mark on the future. I’m not suggesting buying a bullhorn and attending rallies or marathon walks, though those are fine activities for some.
I’m referring to the small yet powerful influence we can have on our grandchildren. We are living examples of how to survive this thing called life. From our stories, kids can learn how we endured disappointments, heartaches, social fears, economic challenges, and even school bullies. And we can offer a hand through what will be ahead for them.
Grandparents are powerful role models. And since we were raised in a different time with a different tone to our conversations, we can introduce our grandkids to a couple of old adages from our youth.
When I was growing up, I often heard the expression, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never harm me.” It suggests we ignore name-calling and refrain from retaliation. Though we all know name-calling can hurt deeply (I’m not pretending it doesn’t), what I like about the sticks and stones message is that we don’t have to let the names hurt or define us. We can brush them off and move on.
We have no control over how others behave or what they will say, but we can decide whether we accept those words and let them influence us. We can choose the people whose opinion matters to us, and we don’t have to give that power to strangers. By teaching our grandchildren to be resilient, they can learn to stand up for themselves and maintain their own power and self-worth without escalating the situation by spewing hurtful words in return.
This leads me to another phrase I remember: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing at all.” Oh, wouldn’t following this advice be a welcome break today! A certain civility appears to be missing in our public discourse. Civil people know how to behave with one another, connect, and see beyond differences. Manners alone assume an attitude of mutual respect until proven otherwise. It would be nice if everyone was compassionate and sensitive to one another, but we can settle for politeness. If we’re not seeing enough of that around us, then let’s step up to at least demonstrate good manners. And who better than the grandparent to do that?
I think that most of us, especially as we get older, would like to continue to feel we’re making a contribution to the world, at least through our community and family. And is there any greater way to participate than through exerting an ameliorative effect on the newest generation? Your contribution to your grandchildren will last through their lifetime and beyond. Your investment of time and energy will pay off many times over, moment by moment, simply through the joy of being with them.