Just last week I learned a valuable lesson. I learned it from someone I have never met. In fact, she passed away in August, yet she did a great job of teaching an entire group of people. How is that possible? Well, this all started when I attended the memorial service for the Mother of a good friend. I never met his Mom, but went to the service as a show of support. Little did I know I would be learning a great lesson just by being there.
First, some background on why this is important for all of us. Many times we mistakenly think learning only happens in a classroom or at a seminar. We’re learning all the time, for better or for worse. We pick up habits, build resistance or open up to ideas based on our experiences every day. Have you ever had a flat tire along a busy highway? Just getting out of the car and standing on the side of the road teaches you how scary it is to be around speeding vehicles. It’s something that rarely crosses our minds while driving because we’re part of the rushing onslaught of traffic. Standing still in close (maybe too close?) proximity to speeding cars changes everything.
But can we learn from people even after they’re gone? Sometimes I think we can learn even more in that situation because we appreciate them when they’re no longer with us. The first time I remember learning this lesson came when I had to dismantle some cabinets my Dad built in the basement of our family home. He had passed away years before, but I remember walking upstairs to tell my Mom how my Dad was teaching me again the value of craftsmanship. He had built these cabinets with great care. They were sturdy and could have lasted for many more years. Without even being there, he was reinforcing an important message years after he had done the original work.
With that backdrop, here is the story of the woman who taught an entire room of people how to be a really good grandparent without saying a word. The memorial service included comments from family members. As expected, they spoke glowingly and offered sometimes funny, sometimes touching stories about her life. But, without a particular plan, the lesson took shape right before our eyes.
Many of the speakers took particular notice of how this woman interacted with her grandkids. It was far more than just being a nice grandma, but instead they noted how central her grandkids were to her life and how each felt they had a special, unique relationship with their grandma. Then two of the granddaughters rose to speak and there was not a dry eye in the place. Their very specific recollections of time after time when their grandma was there for them simply rocked the room. With no attempt to be showy or dramatic, they demonstrated the great lessons they had learned from their grandmother – and how any grandparent can have a tremendous influence on the newest generation.
It was not possible to be in the room and not see how impactful a grandparent’s relationship can be with their grandkids – and how to set an example that can carry on for years. And all of this was done weeks after she had passed away.
She didn’t have to be there. Her actions spoke very clearly for her.
An announcement regarding my new book is coming via twitter NEXT WEEK. Join in the conversation @CaryPfeffer. Stay tuned!
Cary Pfeffer is the founder of ClearComm Consulting, www.clear-comm.net, a Scottsdale, AZ communications consulting firm that helps people tell their story. He works with clients to make the most of their media and live audience communication. Email him at: email@example.com.