How and when do you learn what is important? I ask that question from the perspective of an adult who learned about what is important from my parents and subsequently taught those lessons to my children. Lessons that were co-mingled with those learned by my husband from his parents. Lessons that I revise in my head for the grandchildren I hope to have.
Like all great teachers, my mother and father talked to me and exemplified what was important. There were no classroom chairs or chalkboards, rather the dining room table, the garden, and expeditions to cities or theatres or rallies served as my training ground. My parents demonstrated what was important in the stories they told and by the history they highlighted. They exemplified the importance of love. Love of self, family, spouse, and the building of relationships. There were lessons about the habits of living. Basic things like spirituality, education, health, cleanliness, honesty, survival, equanimity, struggle, respect, responsibility, order, and perseverance—stick-to-itiveness as my mother called it. There were those step-here-a-minute-sit-your-ass-down-do-you-hear-me-talking-to-you lessons and there were those invisible and silent lessons that were the by-products of sharing a home and spending time with one another. There were also lessons, prayers, and guidance written in my parents’ letters to me. In their absence, I often re-read their letters and cards and find in them the sound of their voices, the warmth of their arms, and the extent of their love for me. Always exactly what and when I need to hear about what is important in life. Especially today:
May your 14th birthday be full of surprises—gifts (or the promise of them)—and newer, deeper insights into the beauty of the human spirit as manifested through friends and those who love you.
May all your birthdays be a celebration of the discovery of the best possible in all people and all situations.
May you have the strength and determination to conquer—to overcome—all negative visions that dull the luster of your profoundly beautiful soul.
May you search for and find those aspects of work and pleasure that satisfy all your inner hungers.
And may this search of your own rich treasures bring forth a greater selflessness and dedication to truth.
We wish you a long, rich life, with good health and much deep joy.
—Love Daddy & Mom & Daddy & Mom
I challenged my parents when I could and strayed from their guidance from time to time, but I believe that I hold and practice what they deemed to be important as what I now deem to be important. Some of the realizations came a while ago like when at 16 and I announced that I would not be going to college because I thought it was irrelevant. My mother’s response lasted just a few seconds, and I have since gone on to get a doctorate. Some of the realizations like the importance of planning and managing my time came much later.
Seemingly through osmosis, what you learn as important shows up throughout adulthood. It comes out of your mouth as the words of your parents as well as their temperament. It stares back at you when you look into the mirror. And you can only hope to see it in the faces of your children who, when you have with them the conversations that your parents had with you, remind you of yourself.
Certainly, however and whenever you learn what you deem important changes with experience and time. I believe that the most important lessons and guidance from my parents were in their prayers for me; the hope that I would find and facilitate joy in my life and in this world. Reading the lessons in their letters to me is like finding pages from the Instruction Manual for Life along my path. Crumb navigation indeed.
Crumb #94: May every lesson, each prayer, and all guidance create a path to joy and compassion—the truly important things in life.