4 Life Lessons I Learned From A Nonagenarian’s Story

Edited Photo for July 2 2013 blog postYou’d like Nora if you met her.  She’s a lovely 96-year-old member of our church (your vocabulary word for the day is nonagenarian: a person in their 90’s).   Nora would immediately charm you with her smile and her cheery demeanor; I’d bet a steak dinner on it.   I’ve also found that she is very wise.

Just one conversation yielded four great life lessons.   Here’s the story:

Last month, I took Nora communion.  After we enjoyed the sacrament, we spent some time chatting.  I told her that I was preaching through Ephesians, and soon I would get to the passages about family.  On a whim, I asked Nora if she had any parenting wisdom that she could share with me.

So, she told me about her mother.

She could have talked about how well she had raised her kids (and believe me, she has lots to be proud of – her children turned out well).  She could have held forth about the wisdom she had accumulated over the years.  Instead, she immediately spoke of her mom.

Life lesson number one: modesty is always becoming.

Life lesson number two: it is always good to honor your father and mother.

A little context is helpful here.  Nora’s parents immigrated to the United States from Finland.  They moved to a small mining town in Minnesota.  Everyone in the town was very poor.  But Nora’s father received every paycheck as though it were a gift.  He worked hard and understood the need to be grateful for what they had.

Nora’s mother, however, was in charge of directing the children’s education.

All nine children.

That’s right.  Nine.

When Nora’s mother saw that one of her children was idle, she’d say, “why don’t you go over to the library and get a book.”  (This was a small town – the library was in easy walking distance)

Nora read lots of books.

Nora’s mother impressed the vision of a college education upon all her children.  When the older children graduated college and got jobs, they contributed money toward the education of their younger siblings.

Life lesson number three:  when you’ve been helped, you help others.

Then Nora told me about her report card.

Back in those days, the school didn’t just give grades on academic subjects.  The top two items on the report card were “Attitide” and “Application.”

Nora remembered her mother taking a report card, holding it up, pointing to those top two items, and saying:

“There’s no reason you can’t always get A’s in those two subjects.  They don’t take brains, they just take determination.”

Life lesson number four:  there’s no reason we can’t excel in attitude and application.

Were these four life lessons new to me?  No.

Did I need to be reminded of them?  Yes.

That’s why God gives us to one another.  This is the meaning of “iron sharpening iron.”  We need to ask for one another’s stories because God often uses one person’s story to remind another person of truths they need to hear.

So what about you?  What is the best life lesson you’ve learned recently from listening to someone’s story?

Russell

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