When I grew up (my oldest granddaughter says, “before time started”) communities were less diverse than today. Before time started, you could walk house to house, farm to farm, and not find an ounce of difference in the values people held dear to their hearts. The values held in the home were reinforced down the street at Uncle Elmer’s house, Mrs. Cotton’s house, Lott’s Grocery, or in the public library. The only diversity was some ate salt on their watermelon and some did not. Values were taught in the home and reinforced up and down the street, church to school, and from the courthouse to the local bank. Unfortunately, that is seldom true anymore.
Today, more often than not, we do not know our neighbors down the street; therefore, we can no longer be sure the person three doors down has the same values as we do, or has values at all. It is a sad commentary on our society, but we can no longer trust our children to the neighbourhood for safe keeping – physically or morally. We have grown too isolated and distant for such trust. On top of that, time has become an issue. Regardless of the makeup of the neighbourhood, it is ultimately the responsibility of parents and grandparents to make time to instill and reinforce family values. However, we live in a society where the best intentions are often hogtied by a rush rush world. Everyone is in such a hurry – work, ball games, dance, school activities, etc. – that there is little room for quality family time. It becomes increasingly difficult to consistently reinforce the family values we hold so dear. Values become the little things we push aside or overlook “just this time” for the sake of speeding to the next event in our busy lives. Time gets away from us, and before we know it our children are grown and out on their own. All that is left is our prayers that the values we taught them were enough, and nothing important was overlooked. You never know, and it can drive you crazy wondering, especially if you are a grandparent where time has begun to speed by faster and faster.
Chasing time is fruitless; you can never win, but you can slow it down. I slow it down by imagining a time warp in which my grandchildren are sitting around my table. Except in this time warp, there is not a video game, cell phone, or television to cut into our time. In my time warp, we conduct ourselves like families did before time started; we talk, laugh, and share one another. I know that sounds crazy, and I realize this is not cool in the eyes of my grandchildren, but their definition of “cool” came along after time started, so it does not apply to grandfathers, like me, who think of water bubbling from a spring when the word is used.
Oh, yes, here they come! Come in Nate, Kalyn, Mya, Kayden, Collier, and Pace, and sit with Mawmaw and me. We are going on a journey. No, not Disney World, but a journey much more important. We are going back to a place before time started – a place where values and wisdom were handed down from parents and grandparents and reinforced daily in the community. We are going back to a time when children ran and played, and parents prayed they did not grow up too fast. No, Kalyn, we did not ride in horse drawn buggies, but I have on a special occasion or two. Yes, we had electricity and running water, but most of all we had time for each other.
Yes, Nate, I understand it is stuff nobody wants to hear, yet, it is more relevant than Facebook, Snapchat, or video games. Yes, Kalyn, “before time started” people actually talked to each other about such things as right and wrong, good manners, and proper etiquette. No, Mya, they did not text; they used their fingers and hands to hold up one another. Did they dance? Oh my, yes, Kayden, they danced, and they sang, and you won’t believe this, but they did so in their homes – as a family. Were there trees back then? Yes, Collier, there were trees – great, strong trees. Trees that gave their limbs to cradles, and one tree that carried a lamb on its shoulders at a place called Galilee. Why? Pace, I am so glad you asked. The answer is so simple – love. You see, the one thing we have in common with God is love, and before time started, people loved one another, and they didn’t care if someone thought that was cool or not.
Before time started, family was the coolest thing in the world; it was the world. There was no escaping it; you were inundated with it at the dinner and supper table, reminded of it when working on rooftops or in the fields, and bathed in it every minute and hour of the day. The wisdom and values conveyed through family was the only road map people needed to find happiness if they were wise enough to follow it. Like today, life did not come with an instruction book, but way back before time started, it began with a family, and for those who listened and worked at it, that was all they needed.
So, boys and girls, listen close! Mawmaw and Pawpaw are going to take you on a trip. We are going to whisper to you the secrets of the place called Before Time Started. A place where all cool parents and grandparents made time to teach boys and girls how to be good people. A place where boys and girls were taught values that turned boys into gentlemen and girls into ladies. So, everyone close your eyes and grab a hand, and we will travel to Before Time Started to learn the secret so many have forgotten.
The Secret of Before Time Started
The greatest influence on the world is what we teach our children at home:
- Hold the door open for others to enter a building – especially for ladies and the elderly;
- Say “Thank you” when given a compliment, gift, or an act of kindness;
- Say “Yes, mam” or “No, mam,” and “Yes, sir” or “No, sir – especially to your parents and elders, or as a sign of respect for anyone deserving. No, you do not have to do this, but it is the right thing to do;
- Granddaughters, be confident in yourself. You are as good, smart, and capable as any man. Never sell yourself short because you are a woman or to please a man;
- Grandsons, stand and offer a lady or the elderly your seat on a crowded bus or in a crowded room;
- Learn to see, listen, and respect people through the eyes and ears of a blind man;
- Never talk down to people. It is rude and makes you appear arrogant and a fool;
- Granddaughters, always act like a lady. A woman is God’s symbol of beauty and pose in the world. It is a daunting task at best, but in his eyes and the eyes of the world be deserving and carry yourself above the reproach of others;
- Grandsons, treating women, children, or animals with cruelty is never okay;
- If invited to dinner or supper, always compliment the food; if you don’t like the food, keep it to yourself;
- Never talk over someone during a conversation. The rule is simple: I listen when you talk – you listen when I talk;
- Surround yourself with people of character with greater skills than your own;
- Be a leader, but remember sometimes it takes more courage to follow;
- Always leave the trail behind you better than you found it;
- Granddaughters, smile often. God made a woman’s smile to heal the world. Her smile is intended to melt the hearts of men, reassure her children, and light the darkest day;
- Grandsons, to become a man, know your heart, put the needs of others before yours, trust in family, and have faith in God – everything else you need will fall into place;
- Don’t procrastinate, but take your time when making important decisions;
- Not everybody will like you. That is their problem; don’t make it yours;
- Embrace those less fortunate. Not everyone is dealt the same cards in life;
- Find a hobby! Find something you enjoy in life and do it – don’t worry about being good or bad – just do it!
- Being there for others is important, but do not forget yourself. Take time to do the things that are important to you;
- Public profanity or profanity as a part of your everyday language is never acceptable. It hurts the ears of ladies and children. It instills a sense of false bravado. It demeans your value;
- Your word is your honor. Guard your words closely. Once your integrity is compromised, there is no going back;
- If you agree to work for a man for a dollar, give him your best. Work for him as though he was paying you double;
- There is nothing wrong with wanting more, but first, always be thankful for what you have;
- Granddaughters, walk beside your husband, but never compete with him;
- Grandsons, love and be proud of your wife. She is your backbone;
- Eat, drink, and have a blast in life, but take care not to lose your soul, waste your mind, or wreck your body in the process. Moderation is the key;
- Admit it when you are wrong. Everybody knows it, so own up and move on. Sometimes saying “I am sorry” is your best play;
- Do not take yourself too seriously. Start and end your day by looking in the mirror and having a good laugh;
- Read at least thirty minutes every day;
- Look for the good in all men, but choose carefully to whom you expose your back;
- Good manners, kindness, and treating others the way you want to be treated as well as the way God intended people to treat each other is the greatest of God’s commandments – never take it lightly or for granted! Practice it daily!
Finally, the best advice I can offer is this: bathe daily, use deodorant after you shower, brush your teeth after you eat, wear fresh clothes daily, respect your mama and daddy, treat everyone with kindness, talk gibberish to babies and animals, pray daily for strength and courage, leave judgement to God, be your own person, and be humble. To be a man or a woman, you must stand for what you believe, fight for what you love, and treat with kindness all that falls under the spread of your wings.
Children, these are the secrets people knew and lived by before time started – secrets that enable us to live together and respect one another. Before time started, these truths and values were passed from generation to generation until somehow, they became lost along the way. In each of you is the light to bring these simple truths and values back to the world. It is our prayer you will not keep these secrets to yourself, but will live by them and pass them to your children and grandchildren who in their time will pass them to theirs until a day comes when how to live together in peace and respect for one another is no longer a secret, and the world is turned upright once again.
Our love and prayers always, Mawmaw and Pawpaw.
©Jack Linton, June 12, 2017