Hopes for My Grandchildren  

Posted by Brock Booher

I’m going to be a grandpa!

How did this happen? How did I suddenly become the old guy in the room? I don’t feel old (at least most days). I certainly don’t think of myself as the sage voice of wisdom that grandparents are supposed to be. I don’t act like a grandpa (except maybe when it comes to my taste in music). I don’t think like a grandpa, but then again I’m not sure how grandpas think. What kind of grandpa will I be?

I don’t remember much of my paternal grandfather other than he was a mountain of a man that died way too young. My maternal grandfather, Grampy, survived into my adulthood.  I remember him vividly, and revered him as great man of knowledge, wisdom, and experience. Because of my experiences with him, I have always deemed grandfathers as this repository of life experience and sage advice. I’m not sure I’m ready for that role.

What do I hope to offer my grandchildren? I hope I can impart the same things that my Grampy tried to impart to me—experience, knowledge, and wisdom.

Imagine if you could give a grandchild the gift of experience. You could save a grandson a great deal of heartache and trouble because he could learn from your experience and not have to suffer through his own mistakes. You could give a granddaughter just learning to drive your years of driving experience, and help her avoid accidents. You could give a new married couple the gift of experience at raising children, managing a household, or learning to get along. If you could simply bequeath your life experience to your grandchildren, imagine the pitfalls and regrets they could avoid.

History repeats itself because we cannot pass on the experience of history to the next generation. It is true that I can teach my grandchildren and tell them stories that they can learn from, but if I could somehow transfer my experience to my grandchildren, they would be years ahead.

But life doesn’t work that way. The next generation must always learn some things from their own experience, not from the experience of those who have come before them. We cannot magically pass on our experience.  Every generation must experience life for themselves.

Modern technology has allowed us to download and transfer information from one electronic repository to another at an incredible rate. Yet in spite of all of the information available at our fingertips, the human brain still garners knowledge bit-by-bit and piece-by-piece through the study and practice. Imagine if we could simply plug our brain into a source of knowledge and download knowledge from a computer. What if I could transfer all the knowledge I have gained through the diligent effort of a lifetime to my grandchildren with the click of a mouse?

Having more information at our fingertips does not make us more knowledgeable. Information is not the same as knowledge. Facts don’t automatically make us smarter. Knowing the science behind hitting a home run does not make us a superstar in the major leagues any more than knowing the lines of all of Shakespeare’s plays will win us an academy award. The availability of information can accelerate learning, but each generation must gain knowledge through study and practice.

And what about the gift of wisdom? Think of the regret you could save a grandson or daughter if you could somehow transfer your hard-earned wisdom to them while they are still young. Your grandson would be wise enough to save a little money each week. Your granddaughter would be wise enough to avoid drugs without any anti-drug campaigns. Imagine that like a bank account we could transfer the wisdom we have garnered over the years to our grandchildren’s account. They could avoid a multitude of dead-end pathways, fruitless endeavors, and painful regrets.

But wisdom is gained at the cost of failure. Wisdom is paid for with a price. We can be wise and learn from the mistakes of previous generations, but we must also personally experience the heartbreak of some failures in order to gain personal wisdom.

Perhaps instead of wishing to pass on any knowledge, experience, or wisdom I may have collected over the years, I should help my grandchildren understand how to gain those precious gems for themselves. I can help them experience the sunrise of a winter day and the sunset of a stormy summer evening. I can teach them that trying and failing is better than not trying at all. I can show them that learning is the one activity that never grows stale. I can testify that knowledge is worth the effort, and that wisdom gained too easily can be just as easily lost.

I will do my best to impart any experience, knowledge, or wisdom that I have collected throughout my life to my posterity, but in the end I hope I can instill in them the courage to live and learn.