Living Under the Influence

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I have a wonderful opportunity next week to speak to a group of mostly retired women and some men. Upon receiving the invitation I immediately wondered what could I possibly say to a group who should be speaking into me?! But once I accepted the engagement I was sure of my message ~ You still matter, your influence is needed and valuable.

In a world moving a thousand times faster than in my grandparents day, when we seem to know it all (or can find our answer in the blink of an eye), it might just be possible that the elders in our lives could feel marginalized. Some of us feel so busy we worry that a phone call to a friend might seem intrusive. (Plus why talk when we can text? Insert sarcasm.) So what might possibly run through our parents’ and grandparents’ minds when they think of us and want to reach out? I wonder if they skip the contact because they don’t want to “get in the way” of our day.

Great-Grandma & Erin June 2001I will always be grateful for, and never forget the year my husband’s 90-year-old grandmother lived with our family. One of the moments that influenced me greatly was the day she sat at the kitchen table and asked if I would sit down and have a cup of coffee with her. I remember it vividly — I said I would pour her a cup but that I didn’t have time to sit down. In my mind was I thinking, Can’t she see I’ve got a sandbox full of sand on my floor waiting to be swept and dishes piled in the sink, not to mention the need for a shower and a dinner plan?! I don’t recall what caused me to sit down with her, but I did. Thirteen years later I still remember the sunny day I choose to sit for that cup of coffee. I recall feeling peace overcome my soul and being grateful for the reminder that people matter more than lists and sand and dishes.

That year we shared many cups of coffee and I learned to slow down. There were so many afternoons I sat across from her asking her stories about her past, and writing many of them down. She had a baby — out of wedlock — all those years ago. Imagine how strong she had to be, back when they called those children a name I won’t write here. I learned about how children, in her family line, had been “farmed out.” If you have a great-grandma, ask her what that means; it was common in our history.

That year had some difficult times, but what I gained and how she influenced me will be with me forever.  I was taking care of her but in the end it turned out we were taking care of each other ~ it was an unexpected and everlasting gift.

When I go to speak next week to the ones who carry so many stories, a lot of history and maybe a little insecurity about how they fit into the bustling extended family of 2014, I want to bring your input too. I have created a quick 10 question survey that I would so grateful for you to take. I want to tell them (and show them data) that their influence matters.

You can take the survey here:     Thank you!

Please feel free to share this link – gathering as much input as possible would be amazing. :)

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