“. . . so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children.” – Psalm 78:6
“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders,” the late author and poet James Baldwin once observed, “but they have never failed to imitate them.” I decided to test that recently with my ten-year-old granddaughter Corrina who, looking for a project to make some money, came over to help me re-stain the wooden fence around our backyard. All I did was hand her a bucket of stain and a brush, then she started at one end and I at the other. No instructions were involved, she simply imitated what I was doing. Sooner than I expected, we met in the middle; and I must say, a professional could not have done a finer job, nor worked as fast and efficiently as she did.
Usually an elder’s influence does not produce such immediate results as the recent experience with my granddaughter. In fact, sometimes it is generations later before an elder’s influence surfaces. I often think of my great grandfather, Robert Boyle, who died in 1924, almost twenty-five years before I was born. I know little about him except he and my great grandmother were Irish immigrants who came to America in 1889 when my grandmother was but an infant. They had purchased some land in Texas where for many years they raised sheep. In his later years he was employed in a grocery store.
That’s about all I know about him except for the fact that I had the good fortune of inheriting two heirlooms from among his earthly possessions, an old rocking chair he used to sit in, and a Bible which, based on its tattered appearance, he must have studied frequently. For the longest time I had little emotional attachment to either item, except the chair being attractive and comfortable resides in my study. The Bible, on the other hand, was stored away for years in a box, until one day I rediscovered it. That is when it occurred to me that my great grandfather had once-upon-a-time sat in that rocking chair reading his Bible, perhaps praying and meditating – just as I have done every morning for many years, sitting in that same chair, imitating him without realizing it.
In his newest book Trust and Inspire, Stephen M.R. Covey reminds us that “we are who we are in large part because of the models around us.” Or as the Psalmist says, “. . . so the next generation would know them [God’s deeds], even the children yet to be born.”