My Grandmother was unusual. What Was Yours Like?


Unusual people and events have powerfully shaped my life, and the lessons I’ve learned from them are the roots of my unrelenting passion. My grandmother was my earliest inspiration. She taught kindergarten in New York City for 40 years, and when I visited her class, I felt like the most important person in the world. My grandmother made everyone
feel like the most important person in the world.

She’d give one child a compliment and give another a helping hand. She’d read to one group while answering questions from another. She’d separate two fighting five-year-olds and manage to make them both feel good. And the end of the day, she reassured every parent that his or her messy, noisy, rambunctious child was the most precious miracle in her classroom.

What amazed me was my grandmother’s ability to do this all day, all year, for 40 years. Every time she made a child smile, she seemed to get more energized, like her battery was being charged over and over again. She got as much juice out of teaching the kids as they got from being with her. The lesson I learned from watching my grandmother work was as clear to me then as it is today: providing service to someone else gives you something back. Making other people feel good somehow makes you stronger. Grandma Bea was the first great teacher in my life. Her intention to serve was the most memorable thing about her. She called
it love.

(Read the first section of Uplifting Service now...)

Who was the unusual inspiration in your life?

Categories: Service Culture
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9 Responses

  1. Rose brown says:

    My mother was my greatest influence. She married my Day after his first wife died.
    Three of the older children from the first marriage did not accept her as a mother
    She never let it affect her. She treated all the same and showed love for them all and helped each one to be a better person. She was always ready to help her children – whether her own or not
    I have learned to treat others the same way and to love them all.

    • @Rose Brown – What a great example of giving love, care, and service, even when others are not “ready” to receive it. The benefits are sometimes not seen by others for many years, but it is clear from your writing that your mother understood the good she was doing from the very first day. Thank you for sharing this wonderful example.

  2. Dave Young says:

    I never knew either of my grandmothers – I left my birthplace when I was two years old and arrived in Africa with my parents and my sister. I was later a high school drop-out and not very proud of myself. I joined the BSA Police a few days after my 18th birthday. My drill instructor was Sergeant Jack van Niekerk – an unusual character. Unusual because although he was required to be a disciplinarian, he was also a very caring person. Jack was not a lot older than me or the other recruits but we respected him. Jack was the first person in my life who helped me to believe in myself. He did this because he cared for others. He was kind and considerate, but very tough when the occasion demanded it. He was the smartest man on the Parade Ground and we all wanted to be as smart as him.

    Some years later I found myself in a situation where the situation was reversed and Jack reported to me. He gave me all the support I needed in very difficult circumstances. I would never have been there if it hadn’t been for Jack’s caring nature and help when I was a dumb recruit!

    • @Dave Young – Thanks for sharing this about Jack. It’s wonderful that life “closed the loop” for you with Jack so that he reported to you, as you earlier reported to him – with great respect in both directions. I’ll bet he was proud to serve under your command, seeing the positive results you achieved from his early care. Nice!

  3. Jeffrey Becksted says:

    Well it seems that the mystery surrounding the source of your boundless energy has been solved;-)

  4. Petrina says:

    Ron thank you for asking the question. Unusual people and events have made my journey one of strength, courage and with a passion to help others transform their lives. The unusual inspiration came from my Grandfather and drives me forward every day of my life. He was Chief Health Inspector in Newcastle, the industrial capital of the Commonwealth, and worked tirelessly in Australia, the US & London in the areas of Health & Smoke abatement / atmospheric pollution. My memory of riding on his shoulders, through council chambers, always lifts me to face the challenges that life
    presents. He always offered others the benefit of his knowledge & experience; a staunch & true friend, counsel & protector to his staff; a kindly man with a big mind. A true inspiration to me every day of my life.

  5. Nadeem Ahmed says:

    My grand father too was great source of inspiration for me. Though he was a poor farmer, he believed in hard work, dedication, commitment and honesty. He never succumbed before bedtime, and even in worst conditions kept on working and giving best results for survival of himself and his family. He have others great support who could not afford to feed their families. His such values towards his job and the way he lived is great lesson for me. Following his foot steps I am in a good working environment and doing my job with great satisfaction.

  6. doolaree says:

    My mother is the best tutor of my life. I have learn from her to be very obedient from her example. In my entire life I have been very obedient to my head of department making me work in whether stressing moments or cool moments always with humility toward my superiors which have always a positive response from my head of departments to my subordinates.

    In other words I would just say that I have never rebel against anyone whether at home, at work , in society or vis a vis the authority For this humble character I have always be the winner in my life in any field due to my mum who was always obedient to my father.

  7. sivuni says:

    My mother’s tender care she has bestowed on me during my childhood days. The urgency she showed and the patience she kept, whenever I am not well. If we take care of every human being in the same way, the world will be fantastic place to live in.

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