Teaching Generosity: A Tribute to my Grandparents

When I started this series on how we spend our “cognitive surplus” I knew I wanted to include a family oriented story. I did not, however, expect to write that post myself. That changed a week ago Friday when, while on vacation, I learned my grandfather had died.

I didn’t realize it when I was young, but I hit the grandparent lottery. Every holiday, every birthday, every graduation, every life event, big and small, included Grandma and Grandpa. They visited us at school. They took us on vacation, they invited each of us to stay with them for a week each summer by ourselves (so we could be the sole beneficiary of their affection for a while). As we got older, they loaned* each of us the money we needed to buy our first (and sometimes second) cars. Their house was always open, and several of us grandchildren took full advantage of their hospitality by living with them (or at least coming over to do laundry) as we transitioned between living with our parents and living on our own.

What is even more amazing is their generosity was not reserved for “family” in the traditional sense. Grandma and Grandpa never met a child they didn’t welcome into their home and hearts with open arms. They were always happy to extend their hospitality to friends-of-friends be it for a meal, a trip to the airport, or even a stay at the “Harney Street Bed and Breakfast” as some people took to calling their house after an especially active month of house guests. After they retired, they filled up some of their free time volunteering in a local elementary school listening to second graders practice reading, and serving at a local homeless shelter providing a smile and a warm meal to some of the city’s most vulnerable residents.

Even with all of these amazing gifts, I realized as I was writing this post that the most precious gift they’ve given me is not on this list. Through a lifetime of decisions big and small my Grandparents taught me the joys of giving. They taught me, not through words, but through example, to give as much as I could joyfully give, without worrying about what I would get in return. They taught me there is plenty of love to go around, and the rest will work itself out later.

Thanks Grandpa and Grandma for setting such a great example. I hope to be half as inspirational to the people in my life as you’ve been to me.

Your Turn

Is there someone amazing in your life who deserves a tribute?  Tell us about them in the comments.

*and by loaned I mean they said they were loaning us the money but didn’t want us to pay them back until we could afford it. I’m fairly confident none of those loans were ever actually paid in full.

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