ValueSpeak
A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker

PLEASING THE PEOPLE WE LOVE

You know about Jimmy Stewart, whose film performances established him as America's Everyman. And you know about Donna Reed, Everymom if ever there was one. Now I'd like to introduce you to my dear friend Leah: Everygrandma.

A handsome woman in her advanced years, Leah is sturdy and energetic, with a cheerful disposition and an ever-present smile. Although time and circumstance have delivered her a fair share of blows and burdens, she lives her life comfortably, with the easy-going grace of one who is at peace with herself. Leah is sweet, gentle and kind, with a grandmotherly manner that suggests that a warm, home-baked cookie is never more than a hug away.

And yet there is fire in her eyes, bespeaking courage, confidence, and self-assurance. She is lovingly approachable, but she is also tough. "Yes, darling, you may have piece of candy," those eyes seem to say. "But don't you dare try to take any without asking."

Clearly, this is a grandmother who won't be dumped upon or taken advantage of.

Unless, of course, she chooses to be.

Not too long ago, Leah was overheard discussing Thanksgiving plans with a neighbor. Evidently, a sizable family feast was in the offing, for which Leah was planning to prepare eight -- count 'em -- eight different kinds of pies.

"You've got to be kidding!" Leah's neighbor said. "What on earth for?"

"Because some of the children like one kind of pie and some like another," Leah said simply. There was no martyrdom in her voice, no indication of culinary pride. It was a simple statement of fact: they want it, I make it.

"Boy," her friend replied respectfully, "you must really be into baking."

"No," said Leah, "I'm really into pleasing the people I love."

What a thought! What a concept! Imagine trying to please people for no other reason than because . . . well, because you want to please them. No ulterior motives. No "what's-in-it-for-me." Possibly no return at all -- except, perhaps, a grateful smile. Or a plate licked clean of the last crumb of flaky crust. Or a small voice anxiously asking, "Can I have another piece of pie, Grandma?"

Of course this isn't a new idea. Now that I think about it, it seems to me that grandparents have been doing this for as long as there have been grandparents. Maybe it's a gene that kicks in when you turn 60. Or maybe it has something to do with the fact that grandchildren usually go home – eventually -- so you can stand to be more patient with them than you ever were with your own children.

But I suspect it has more to do with the experience of living -- and loving -- for a long, long time. When we are children we love those who take care of us, primarily because they take care of us. As we get older, we begin to love those who please us for one reason or another, mostly because they please us. It takes a good long time before we learn how to turn that equation around and are able to focus on pleasing those we love rather than loving those who please us, for no other reason than because we choose to.

Because we care. Because we love.

Leah has arrived at that point in her life. I live in a neighborhood with many grandparents, and I observe the same trait in most of them. Hopefully by interacting with so many giving, caring men and women I can learn to love like they do -- fully, completely, unconditionally.

Then, look out, world: here comes Everygrandpa!

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— © Joseph Walker

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Look What Love Has Done:  Five-Minute Messages to Lift Your Spirit. 

"How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen?  Home Remedies for an Ailing World."