My grandparents were both born in Germany before the second world war, in a time where everybody was taught to live a life of duty and sacrifice. By the time the war was over, my grandmother was 12 and my grandfather was 10. At such a tender age they had both seen and experienced atrocities and loss which a grown adult would struggle to comprehend and process, let alone a child. After the war, their country ravaged, everybody hungry, they had to help build again what once was, help source food for hungry siblings – there was no time for self pity or for psychologists. All they could do was survive and be strong enough to live another day.
Because of this childhood, duty, sacrifice and the pursuit of perfection was something so ingrained in their very beings that they often struggled to comprehend our current world of entitlement and feelings. Although this lead to a number of arguments, one generation not understanding the next, they did teach us the following life lessons – lessons which are the life-blood of our family, lessons which I will pass on to my children and which will hopefully be passed on for generations to come:
You are much prettier when you smile, than when you frown
(Viel schoener bist du wenn du lachst, als wenn du eine Schnute machst)
There is so much power in a simple smile, it helps to not only make yourself feel better, it also helps all those around you. Whether it is meant as a simple greeting, or as something deeper like ‘I love you’, a smile brings warmth and brightness into the world. Imagine how much happier this world would be if we all just smiled a little more and complained a little less. Instead of focusing on the negative, being grateful for the positive.
There is no such thing as ‘Impossible’
Through persistence, everything is possible. It might not be possible right this instance, but do not give up. If you really want something badly enough, persist and the seemingly impossible soon becomes possible.
My gran recently had a car accident and because of her age (82), the doctor insisted that her broken leg will take months, if not years, to heal properly. Yet, 2 months after the accident, she is at home, in a moon boot, carrying on with her life. She could have succumbed to feelings of self-pity and frustration and given up on ever getting better, but she wanted to go home and that meant being mobile. So, she became mobile.
Do not procrastinate – do what can be done today, today
(Was du heute kannst besorgen, das schiebe nicht auf morgen)
Every day brings with it its own set of priorities, tasks and duties, so make the time to do them. It does not help pushing things onto another day as that day will be filled with new things and if you keep on procrastinating, you will never get everything done.
Do not be lazy – a little work never hurt anyone
We are a family of busy bodies – not one of us is able to sit still for very long without finding something that needs to get done, because, there is always something that needs doing. Whether it is doing a load of washing or packing the dishes from the sink into the dishwasher or walking through the garden picking up dead leaves, if you do not do it, it will not get done.
We were taught that we cannot walk through life expecting ‘someone’ to do things for us. If we wanted something, we needed to work for it. This taught us independence and self-reliance – values I believe to be very important.
Be proud of yourself and your surroundings
Whatever you do, do it in such a way that you can be proud of it (and of yourself). Whether it is the way you look or your house and your surroundings, be proud of it. Own your life, own the way you live and own the work you do – be proud.
A love of art and all things beautiful
My grandmother has a love for beautiful things and a keen eye for art and her own creativity and passion has (in various forms) filtered through to her children and grandchildren.
What this has taught me is that we should go through life with an appreciation for the beautiful. Take the time to soak in the sunrise or sunset, turn up the radio and dance to that song you love, listen to your children – be sure to appreciate every beautiful moment this life has to offer. There is beauty in all things – all you need to do is look for it.
Love is shown through actions
I don’t think that I have ever heard the words ‘I love you’ being spoken by either one of my grandparents, but I have never not felt loved. We need to realise that love can be shown in numerous ways – not everybody thinks the same and not everybody shows affection in the same way. We need to accept and appreciate all the various ways in which love can be shown.
We have a family business and when we were children, the company driver would pick all the grandchildren up from school on a Friday and take us to work.Once at work,we would first greet our grandfather and every time, he would open his lunch box and give us his delicious sandwiches. When I eventually joined the company as an employee, my grandfather made me a sandwich every day. They were his token of love.
Now, that my grandfather has passed away, we still talk about those sandwiches when we as a family get together. They were the epitome of wholesome goodness and warmed all of our hearts.
Reflecting on my grandparents lives and their life circumstances, it makes me wonder whether we as a society have not become too soft. Although personal feelings are important, life can be so hard and so cruel. I do not want to raise my child in a way that he expects to always win because it might hurt his feelings when he loses – one day, he will have to face life’s difficulties on his own. The simple truth is that I will not always be there to catch him when he falls – he must learn to get up and dust himself off, by himself. My task as a mother is to teach him to find his own inner strength so that he can stand tall and walk through life proud and strong, regardless of what life throws at him.