Do you wonder about the influence you might have on another person? My grandparents taught me a number of lessons. I don’t believe their teaching was intentional, but occurred both positively and negatively nevertheless. This interests me because I am now a grandparent and wonder just how much I can influence my grandchildren by what I say and how I act. It is a bit scary what they will remember from my words and actions.
My grandmother grew up in home of a Cumberland Presbyterian minister. I don’t remember her ever speaking about those years. She influenced the faith of her grandchildren through singing hymns and a periodic correction of our mistakes. I can hear her singing “The Old Rugged Cross” to this day.
On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross, the emblem of suffering and shame;
and I love that old cross where the dearest and best for a world of lost sinners was slain.
Refrain: So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it some day for a crown.
I remember her taking us shopping. She would often give us money and send us into the grocery to buy particular items. And, then, she insisted on seeing the cost so she knew she received the correct change back from us. On one occasion, she ask me to buy five pounds of sugar. She gave me one dollar. I came back with more change than the original money given to me. I was snickering and said something like “Boy, did I make off like a bandit in that deal.” She didn’t join in the celebration over the windfall. Instead she said, “Listen, Bobby, that is purely dishonest. You have stolen from the store. What if that clerk has to make up the difference? Money falsely gained will never be blessed! Now, you go right back in the store and return the money to the clerk that made the mistake.” I begged her to do it for me, but she said, “You got yourself into this mess. Now get in there and make it right.”
And, then, I remember another incident when my Grandpa Watkins got busted for trying to cheat. Grandpa and Grandma took my cousin Margie and me to the Tama Pow Wow. This was an annual event administered by the Meskwaki nation, also know as the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi. The problem occurred when Grandpa Watkins was paying the entry fee. The gate attendant asked my grandfather, “How old are the two children?” The cost display indicated that children under 10 entered free?
Grandpa replied, “They are both 9.” My cousin quickly corrected Grandpa, “But Grandpa, you know I am 11.”
I don’t know whether Grandpa’s little “white” lie influenced my ethics, but I certainly remember the incident. It is certain that people remember both the positive and the negative that they learn from us.