The past few days, I have had the privilege of vacationing with all four of my grandparents and my cousin's grandfather (who has been like a grandfather to me for my whole life). I decided to spend some of this quality time asking them to share some of pearls of wisdom that they have come to understand over their lifetime. Here are the answers that four of them gave to the question:
"I wish that I had known that I am the one responsible for my own happiness. I wish I had known how important it is to communicate your feelings instead of keeping it bottled up; you just can’t assume other people know how you feel."
"I wish I had tried to reach out more and make new friends. I was content with my small number of good, close friends, but I’ve realized over the years that you can learn so much from others; the more people you come in contact with, the more you learn. Also, at the school I went to, if you reached a certain GPA, you could take the higher rated classes, such as engineering, which was my goal. They didn’t want to fail anybody, so they let you work at your level. Looking back, I realize that I only put in enough effort to stay in the advanced program, so if I had to do it all over again, I would have tried to challenge and apply myself more. At the age I am now, I recognize the importance of helping other people, and that requires a certain level of dedication and commitment, so I realize that you should give your best in any endeavor you’re involved in. "
"Don’t spend time worrying, just let God handle it. Oftentimes when you think your life has reached the end of the world, God has another plan."
"One thing I wish I had concentrated more on was going to hospitals and nursing homes and helping people who couldn’t help themselves. I was more self-centered when I was young, but as I grew older I more and more realized the value of giving my time to serve others. It benefits me because I get ten times more pleasure from helping people than helping myself; the best way I can fight my anxieties is to help others. It gives me the greatest fulfillment in life; the more I help those around me, the better I feel. It sounds simple, but it’s true. I’m 87 years old, but I can get around, so I want to help others with their struggles. I want to look back and see the impact.
When I was married and had a family, I would get more pleasure helping my wife than I did from anything else. It lifted me up. However, I think I fully learned the worth of serving others when I went to eighteen different cathedrals in Italy in 2005, which kind of turned things around. I slept in one of the cells in Assisi that the Franciscans slept in 700 years ago, and the rooms were so small (maybe 6 feet), that when I laid down my feet were almost touching each wall. Seeing the Franciscans’ sacrificial lifestyle really taught me that the more you help others, the more you help yourself. Now, I visit prisoners in jail and comfort those in hospitals, and it is so rewarding."