(I wrote this in October 2012… I think I edited 2 sentences here… I’m recycling. I’m allowed.)
Every once in a while, a particular event in life really brings to light a bigger picture. Yesterday was one such event. I found out that a childhood neighbor had passed away. He had lived in the house next door to my parents all the days of my life. In my mind and heart, his passing marks a significant change in the times. Allow me to elaborate.
As I was growing up, I spent a considerable amount of time at Rudy’s house. He was nearly fifty years my senior, and so it was like having another grandfather right next door. I would wander over many days, just to see what he was working on in his garage. I remember the oldies (real oldies) playing on his garage radio all the time. Sometimes it was a household project. Sometimes he was cleaning the car. Sometimes it was a woodworking project for himself or one of his grandsons. He loved wood carving, which I always thought was fascinating. Many times he would be out swinging a golf club in the backyard. Regardless of the day’s activities, he would always greet me with a smile and welcome me into whatever he was doing. He truly was a neighbor.
I grew up not really knowing my grandfathers, one having passed before I was born, and the other passing when I was quite young. In many ways, the neighbor filled the role of a grandfather. Obviously he could not claim such a role, nor was it his responsibility to do so. But his friendship was significant in that he brought the wisdom of another generation and the kind smiles and willingness to put up with the little kid next door, even teaching him a thing or two from time to time. That’s good stuff.
I say his passing marks the changing times for this reason : in today’s world, his actions would likely be viewed as suspect. Little kids no longer wander over to the older neighbor’s house. We no longer trust that the neighbor is simply passing on another generation’s wisdom or the kind service of teaching a boy how to carve a fish out of a block of wood. We just don’t trust like that. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve all been given excessive reason not to trust. But I still lament that passing of a more innocent generation.
If you know me, you know I place a high priority on family. I also place a high priority on giving our children the opportunity to glean every last piece of wisdom from the previous generations – in the proper context. As our children are often increasingly isolated from older generations, I am saddened. We have limited the number of voices who have the opportunity to speak life experience into our children. I am not foolish enough to think that, at this point in life, my voice is enough to raise my children. I just haven’t been around that long. I’m still learning myself.
I want my children to learn from their grandparents. I want my children to learn from those who have lived and walked this earth for many more years than I have. Heck, I want to learn from them too! This means adults in the church, family, friends and neighbors. I worry that we are robbing our children of the wisdom that comes with age. I worry that because of the twisted sin of the world in which we live, we feel as though we have no choice.
I hope my children find their Rudy. I hope that by the time I have some wisdom to share (it’ll probably be a few more years…) the world isn’t such a dark place that I have no neighbors with which to share it.