17 November 2011

Quote for the day on learning self-reliance from earlier generations

When an elder dies, it is as if an entire library has burned to the ground. – African saying

Recently, Mrs. Freeman sent me a link to 7 Lost Household Arts: What would Granny do? Rediscover the joys of cheap and green solutions, from the Daily Green website. The post is short but interesting, and it suggests learning skills from our grandparents. It also got me to thinking about what a valuable — but underappreciated — resource our elders really are.

In looking around the Web for related information, I discovered the quote above. When I came across this line, it really struck home for me because I never really appreciated my grandparents while they were alive.

In particular, my paternal grandparents were amazingly self-reliant. Though they lived in a fairly dense suburban area, they still grew a massive garden in their back lot (they were fortunate enough to own two lots). They canned much food every year, cooked all their own meals, fixed and repaired everything they could, and so on. Of course, they were raising four kids during the Great Depression, so "do-it-yourself" was not only common... it was absolutely necessary.

As a child, I couldn't really grasp the value of what they did. It just seemed like hard work, and I didn't want any of that. By the time I was a teen, my parents seemed horribly old-fashioned; my grandparents even more so.

Sadly, they passed away and were gone for a while before I really started to understand what a terrible loss it was to not learn more at their feet. As the quote above says, it was as if a library full of knowledge, history, and experience burned down.

Nor is this idea only applicable to grandparents; it's equally important to realize the wisdom and skills that our parents offer as well.

What's more, we need to look beyond blood relatives: how many "elders" do you know that you can learn from? We need to find as many of these "libraries" as we can before they "burn to the ground," and read as many "books" as possible.

So, who do you know that you can (or have) learned from?

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