Rabbit Trails: Elders who speak through lives of wisdom
by By DELANEY WALKER Banner Staff Writer
May 05, 2013 | 661 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A warning should be placed over today’s column, “All who fear the mighty toe crusher of wisdom beware!”

I’ve just thought of how absurdly arrogant the warning sounds.

Trust me, I am not warning you of my wisdom’s toe-crushing prowess. If you can spare a couple of minutes, the mystery will soon be out of the bag!

My grandma passed away recently. This means her four children have had the task of dealing with the IRS, figuring out her passwords and going through the estate. Last night, my aunt found a box which had been pushed to the corner. Would you believe treasures lay inside?

Among other oddities and delights were a gate latch (possibly from my papa’s childhood farm), a previously unknown sketchbook of portraits and a pad of sayings my Great Grandpa Bishop had recorded.

I have but one memory of my great grandpa and it is not much to go by. Stories from my great uncles and papa revealed him to be a wonderful man. Still, I’ve never known his voice — until I looked at his papers of sayings.

“I believe in the dignity of labor, whether with head or with hand, that the world owes every man an opportunity to make a living.”

One after another provoked me to laughter or thought and sometimes both.

“A few students have the spark of genius, but the majority seem to have ignition trouble.”

I would like to think these gems of insight were of his own devise. As I read one after another, I was caught by their wit and careful consideration.

“Always do right: this will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”

In my head I can see him working on his farm while mulling over life.

“Nothing is funny when you’re hungry or when your feet hurt.”

I wonder if these thoughts came to him with anyone specific in mind.

“At town meetings, why do the people who know all the answers ask all the questions?”

Were they in response to the national news?

“A politician thinks of the next election, a statesman of the next generation.”

Or were they product of a great love?

“Often when a man climbs to success, it is a woman that is holding the ladder.”

And did he hope his four boys would one day draw wisdom from the transcribed sayings? 

“Few people ever push themselves forward any measurable distance by patting themselves on the back.”

He must have known they would run into trouble far after he was gone.

“It is comforting to know that when you reach bottom there is no way to go but up.”

One day they too would have their own families.

“If you want your children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders.”

They would question the world around them.

“It is the duty of the government to make it difficult for people to do wrong and easy to do right.”

And wonder at each situation’s proper response.

“Not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”

A time would come when they would have to make difficult decisions. How would they know where to turn? Whose counsel would they seek?

“Just because the majority approves, it does not follow that the Lord approves also.”

What would they do when all their grand ideas led them to brick walls?

“The doorstep to the temple of wisdom is a knowledge of our own ignorance.”

And they felt their successes had gone unnoticed?

“Don’t talk about what you have done or what you are going to do. Do it and let it speak for itself.”

What advice could they follow when thrown into the deep end?

“If you keep quiet, you may take credit for knowing what you aren’t talking about.”

Or if they became too big for their britches?

“Despite all our accomplishments, man owes his existence to a six-inch layer of topsoil and the fact it rains.”

Finally, what words could he share long after he was around to sing “Happy Birthday?”

“We cannot help growing old, but we can resist being aged.”

Now I have a confession to make. All of these could be well-documented sayings. Perhaps you grew up hearing your grandparents mutter the phrases or saying them yourselves.

I’ve decided it does not matter whether these words of wisdom sprang from my Great Grand’s thoughts. What matters is he spent time in deliberate recall and writing. He looked at life around him, at the life to still come and chose these sayings.

I know from his list he strived to be an honest, morally sound man. His sight was on the Lord and his prayers were spent on his loved ones. I don’t need to see the callouses on his hands to know he was a handworker or see the light in his eyes to witness his love for my Great Gran.

These may, or may not, be his words, but I believe I see his intention clearly — and it is true. I’ve known for quite some time I come from good stock. I say this without arrogance for the truth was not made so by my actions. I am a creature of grace’s circumstance.

I’ve been surrounded by great people my whole life: strong brothers, loving parents, wise grandparents, caring aunts and uncles and the best Greats (grands, uncles, aunts) a gal could ask for. I also understand just because I am surrounded by them, does not mean I have reached their ranks. Instead, I like to see their experiences as tools to help me on my journey.

Sometimes I forget the lessons my — dare I say it? — elders can teach me. Wise, wonderful, profound and downright delightful elders.

And so now I leave you with one of my favorite expressions my late Papa (my Great Grand’s second oldest son) often used in hopes you will find out the great quotes, memories and lessons of your family members.

“I regret I have but one stomach to give to the cause!”