All of my grandparents grew up during the Great Depression, and entered adulthood during the time of World War II. Both of my grandfathers served in the military – one in Europe and the other in the Pacific. After World War II, they returned to their work as farmers. One of my grandmothers was an elementary school teacher, and the other helped out on the farm, riding tractors, and picking cotton and beans. There’s a reason their generation was called the “Greatest Generation,” and there’s a lot we can all learn from our grandparents.
10 Lessons I Learned From My Grandparents:
1. Work hard and save your money.
My grandparents didn’t buy into the lie of believing that the American dream means always buying nicer things if you have the money. Both sets of grandparents lived in modest houses and drove beat up pick-ups even when they could have bigger and better. They saved their money for a rainy day because they’d seen those rainy days growing up during the Great Depression.
2. Cook enough food for an army.
My grandma always commented on how skinny we grandkids were, despite the fact that none of us ever lacked for food. She’d load up all our plates with heaps of corn, okra, mashed potatoes, or chicken, and if she saw an empty spot on our plate then she’d fill that spot up, too. She cooked enough for us to eat third or fourth helpings or more.
3. Eat everything on your plate.
Despite the fact that our plates were continually loaded with more food, everyone was still expected to eat everything on it. After all, didn’t we know that there were plenty of starving children who’d be grateful to have so much food?
4. Don’t complain.
I’ve never once heard my Grandaddy complain about anything – except maybe that they weren’t airing a Cardinals game on the TV that night. My grandparents were from a tougher generation, which makes sense considering they’d seen the effects of the Great Depression and World War II. They’re fighters, and it makes me think twice about complaining when I think about how tough they all were.
5. You’re never too old to learn something new.
After my Gramma and Granddaddy retired from farming, they set their sights on learning new things, and both of them got their private pilot licenses. It’s something that has served as a constant reminder to me that I’m never too old to learn something new.
6. Don’t back down from a fight.
When my brother was about 10-years-old, he was having trouble with bullies. My mom asked my Grandaddy if he could give him some advice. He told my brother, “Keep your hands down at your sides. Don’t put them up like you want to fight. Then if you know the other guy is going to punch you, swing your arm up and hit him first. If you hit him hard enough, he won’t want to fight.” This was not the “turn the other cheek” advice that my mother was hoping Grandaddy would pass down, but like I said, he’s from a generation of fighters. What do you expect?
7. Waste not. Want not.
None of my grandparents ever wasted anything. Anything old could be turned into something new. Anything edible was either eaten or went to the hogs on their farm.
8. Keep traveling.
Despite the fact that my Grandaddy has a hard time getting around and has to use an electric scooter, he and his wife and my mom, took a trip to Europe last year. He was 88-years-old, but he wanted to see some of the places he’d been to when he fought in World War II. Throughout his retirement, he’s never stopped traveling. His zest for life and desire to keep traveling are two things that I really admire about him and hope to emulate when I’m his age.
9. Sugar and butter make everything better.
My grandparents didn’t have the luxury of buying hundreds of different spices at the grocery store. They learned to cook with salt and pepper and butter and sugar, and somehow it all tastes better than anything I can make now. After all, sugar and butter make everything better, and they were liberal with both.
10. Heroes are made not born.
Both of my grandfathers would have been content to continue being farmers like their fathers before them, but history thrust them into war and they served heroically. Like all World War II veterans, they are heroes who deserve our gratitude. Their generation truly was the “Greatest Generation.”