‘What You Don’t Have in Your Head’
A few moments before, I had been playing with the matchbox cars my grandmother purchased for me because of my good behavior at the dentist. Now I stood at the bottom of the basement steps amidst the clutter, struggling to recall what it was my father had originally sent me downstairs to get. Exasperated and empty-handed, I slowly climbed back upstairs to confess my absent-mindedness.
“Rodge,” my dad proclaimed with authority, “what you don’t have in your head, you have to have in your feet.”
A TIMELESS TIDBIT
OF WISDOM HAD PASSED
FROM ONE GENERATION
Huh? I must confess I didn't get it at first, but slowly the wisdom of the words sank in. If I didn’t pay attention at the onset (i.e., use my brain), I would end up having to expend more physical effort (i.e., use my feet) to accomplish the task. Where did my father get these sayings? Well, as I would discover in later years, mostly from his father! Once again, a timeless tidbit of wisdom had been passed from one generation to another. I have since relayed this pearl to my children, and I suppose it will ultimately be relayed to their children.
Because of their life experiences and deep relationship with God, my parents (and my wife’s parents) have so much to offer our family! Their wisdom is priceless, and its impact on my children cannot be overestimated. But in addition to wisdom, they have provided my children with a myriad of other educational opportunities. For example, this year my children had award-winning entries in the local county fair in such categories as chair caning, woodworking, baking, photography, cross-stitch, quilting, charcoal drawing, and even garden produce. Much of the expertise they needed in order to compete resulted from a mentoring relationship with their grandparents. I am particularly appreciative of the help our parents have been in teaching the “three Rs,” especially the painful experience of listening to our youngest children read aloud. I’m always glad to share that responsibility!
It goes without saying that spending time with older people is a prerequisite to reaping the benefit of their knowledge and wisdom. Now, granted, spending time with our elders can be a bit frustrating. Sometimes the educational opportunities are accompanied by distractions, rabbit trails, and the needs of those who are living in a season of life different from our own. We are all busy, and when we lay aside our own agendas to focus on what is important to others, our patience is tested. But when done with the right attitude, this exercise in self-denial is pleasing to God. And when we please God, He blesses us—sometimes in ways we could never have foreseen, sometimes “beyond all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20; New American Standard Bible).
Wait a minute. We are discussing what we stand to gain from our elders. This is the worldly way of looking at relationships. Far more important than what we may receive, is what we have the privilege to give. Our elders need us, and I believe God makes it clear that we are to respond to this need with the resources available to us. Scripture states, “But if any widow has children or grandchildren, they must first learn to practice piety in regard to their own family and to make some return to their parents; for this is acceptable in the sight of God . . . But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever“ (I Timothy 5:4, 8; NASB).
Since we are all in the business of teaching our children, what more important lesson to teach than that of how to love one another? Certainly Jesus placed a high premium on learning to love one another! Caring for our elders is the opportunity to demonstrate to our children the love of God in a practical way. It is the “lab” part of Love 101, an entry-level course in which we are all enrolled for a lifetime. And who knows, you may be the recipient of God’s love one day as your children practice what they have been taught in their youth.
Unquestionably, for some of you, having grandparents or parents in a long-term care facility is the only option. It is not my desire to heap guilt on your shoulders. In my medical practice, I encounter many scenarios in which family circumstances necessitate the use of such an institution. However, in this world of quick fixes and self-centered reasoning, it is sometimes helpful for us to step back and reassess if what we have in our head squares with what we have in our feet. Inasmuch as it is possible, I would encourage you to stay involved in the lives of your elders and allow them to involve themselves in the lives of your children.
|About the author
An HSLDA board member since 1997, Dr. Rodger Sayre is a family physician, and his wife Mary is a registered nurse. They live in Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania, and teach their 11 children at home. Dr. Sayre received his medical degree from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and maintains board certification in family practice. A Geisinger Medical Group associate with a busy practice in Nicholson, Pennsylvania, he is a member of the Christian Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American College of Sports Medicine.
The views of guest columnists may not reflect the views of Home School Legal Defense Association.