“In everything set them an example by doing what is good.” – Titus 2:7
“HO!” he playfully hollered as his right arm swung over to protect me from banging my head against the dashboard of his old Ford coupe as it bounced off the curb of a parking place he recklessly pulled into. (This was before the days of seatbelts and car seats.) I was only three years old at the time, and when he hollered “HO!” I thought it was the funniest thing my grandfather ever said. In fact, it was the only thing I remember that my maternal grandfather ever said, as he died shortly after my fourth birthday.
Fortunately, I got to spend at least a few more years with my paternal grandfather, although he too passed away when I was only nine. (For the record, it was the consequence of being the caboose in the family, the youngest grandchild on both sides, that I did not get to enjoy my grandfathers’ company longer than I did.) Strangely, though, even by age nine and having spent a great deal of time with him, I don’t recall much of what my paternal grandfather said either. What I do remember distinctly about both my grandfathers, though, is how they lived their lives, both being men of strong faith and impeccable character, highly respected in their community, who loved their families and showed compassion and gave generously as they were able to those less fortunate.
Knowledge and wisdom are conveyed from one person to another and from one generation to the next in many ways: teaching, coaching, mentoring, advising, and counseling. All are important, indeed essential to the process of teaching and learning. But perhaps the most impactful method of conveyance, especially in terms of instilling character, is through example, role-modeling, when the way one lives speaks for itself.
Admittedly, there have been moments in my life, adult life especially, when I have yearned for the opportunity to sit at my grandfathers’ feet, to listen to their stories and experiences, pick their brains, have them around to teach, advise, and mentor me. Yet, what I did receive from them was far greater – the example of how they lived. “In everything set them an example by doing what is good,” the Apostle Paul wrote to his colleague Titus. It is the most powerful lesson I learned from my two grandfathers, and the most impactful thing any of us can do for the next generation.