May 2, 2018
Being There For Younger Generations
A few years ago I wrote about leaving a legacy. Usually a legacy is thought of as a gift of money or property for someone after you die. The second way to think of a legacy is something that you have achieved that continues to exist after your death.
This time I'd like to focus on the legacies of experience and knowledge that we can pass on to those younger than us. Most of my thoughts will be about my grandkids, though I do have a few examples of interacting with others, whether you are related or not.
My daughter and son-in-law are raising three inquisitive, sensitive, thoughtful, and caring children. They have the benefits of a loving, stable home life, an uncle and two cousins, plus two sets of grandparents who are active in their lives and live only five minutes away.
Betty and I see them every Sunday, both at church, and again for an afternoon of games and dinner together. Most Wednesday afternoons, mom and the kids come to our house for a few hours to play, maybe watch an educational TV show, work on a craft project, and have a snack (my goodness can growing kids eat!).
During these times together I am quite aware that I am modeling adult behavior. How I talk to each of them, gently correct something, engage in games and play, interact with their mother and my wife....they see and hear it all.
Recently, my eleven year old grandson and I have been building wooden model kits together. He challenges me to chess most Wednesdays. He invents games and asks me for my opinion on how to improve them. He asks about financial things and wants to know how money and credit work. Now, he and I are doing a 10 minute Bible study...his idea and under his direction.
With my granddaughters I try my best to support their activities, praise their successes, comfort them over problems, and attempt to enforce the message that they can do anything they set their minds to. The youngest wants to build a wooden model with me, too, while the nine year old delights in showing me her increasingly complex paintings.
In addition to the three children I am related to, I believe strongly in the need to pass on my experiences to others. Once a semester I volunteer as a Junior Achievement teacher at a nearby elementary school. Located in a lower middle class neighborhood, these kids are only getting financial lessons from TV, the Internet, or smartphone apps.
Financial literacy and understanding the consequences of their decisions with money will help determine the future of these children. I believe the 45 minutes we spend together each week will help them make better choices.
During my consulting career I made it a point to act as a mentor to someone who was new to the business or eager to learn. Rather than leaving his or her development to chance, it seemed important to help them avoid common pitfalls and build strong career-related habits. One man I worked with later became the owner of several radio stations. He claims he learned more from me than anyone else in his career.
It is very nice to hear him say that. Importantly it supports my belief in the power of being a mentor. Helping those younger or less experienced than us is a responsibility we all share. And it feels good.
Being available to younger folks is something we can all do. It could be through a formal arrangement, like Junior Achievement or one of the various mentoring programs. It could be time spent with grandkids, nephews and nieces. It could be teaching Sunday school or helping as a volunteer at a nearby school.
Sharing what we have learned from life should be part of our satisfying retirement.