Share Your Lessons

The Legacy Project is devoted to collecting and sharing elder wisdom, and we’d love to hear from you. Please share your lesson in 100-200 words in the comment box below. Feel free to share your own wisdom, or advice that an elder shared with you. 

280 thoughts on “Share Your Lessons

  1. Treat others with dignity and respect even when it is most difficult. Honor their wishes. Your heart will then be at peace no matter the outcome.

  2. 10 Tips for a Happy Life:

    1) Always be honest; you then won’t need to remember what you said.

    2) Pay attention to the task at hand, no matter what is said, you know you’ve done/given due to the work .

    3) Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

    4) Plan ahead. Cook in quantity so there’s always dinner. Start planning early for the holidays.

    5) In the course of completing a task, a better/alternate way is sometimes discovered.

    6) Make do with what you have or if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

    7) Learn the simple way of doing things that way you’re not left in the lurch.

    8) Look around you and see the magic/beauty in nature. Enjoy.

    9) Read, read, read. Never stop learning.

    10) Be honest and respectful in all things.

  3. Life and everything in it is a gift from the infinite mind;
    and the only way that life can go wrong is by the limited finite mind.

  4. I was lucky enough to have met the most wonderful human being during my last year of college (back in 2009, I am now 25). This person was my 78 year old scuba diving instructor (who has completed all 10 dives with us that summer and ranks nationally in rowing competitions.)

    Over the years, he has been a friend, a mentor and a role model. We would meet once a week just to catch up, share funny stories, have life talks, have dinner, and sometimes go to Home Goods and walk out with a ridiculous amount of knick knacks for the house just because. It’s my version of Tuesdays with Morrie, if you can picture Morrie to be a 6’2, scruffy, strong but sensitive type. As someone who is at least five decades my senior, it is amazing to see his positivity and naivete to life despite all of what he has endured, including: the loss of his wife and two grown sons, his house having burned down, and having been held at gunpoint in his own home.

    What I find remarkable about Doc (the name he goes by) is his ability to wake up in the morning and treat it like it’s a whole new day. To find happiness and joy in the little things like which flavor of ice cream goes best on a waffle cone, buying a life size teddy bear to put on his front porch (everyone who drives by probably thinks he’s completely lost it), and having all sesaons of Two and Half Men on dvd. At 25 years of age, I learn more, from him, on a single day than the following experiences COMBINED: my failed two and a half year relationship with a man whom I almost married, all my four years of college and my first two shitty jobs post college.

    Happiness is a choice. It’s a conscious choice you make, daily. It’s hard. It requires some effort but like anything else, you train your mind to look at what’s working and not on what’s not. And I think that’s pretty wise.

  5. I was not yet ten years old when Supermarkets began to take hold in my Brooklyn neighborhood. My mother was a long-term customer of the corner grocery store.I remember asking her why she did not shop at the new A&P? She responded ,Joe( the owner) was very good to me during the Depression. He carried me on credit many times.I cannot abandon him in his time of need.She remained with Joe until he closed the business.My mother taught me a very valuable lesson. Allegiance!

  6. 1. Be honest, responsible, and respectful in all things
    2. Treat others as you would have them treat you.
    3. Treat others with dignity and respect even when it is most difficult.
    4. Don’t blame others.
    5. Don’t complain.
    6. Don’t yeld.
    7. Look at the positive things others do. Not the negative ones.

  7. Perhaps, more of a question than a learned lesson:

    I’m 55, grew up in the years of transition to improved women’s rights. Very little my Dad or Mom taught me as a child what it meant to be a man, husband or father seems relevant. The school yard talk as a kid was very representative of the confusion with the boys commonly saying “No wife of my will ever work” and the girls saying anything a boy can do a girl can do. Seems neither was exactly true. As a Dad that worked from home and took care of the kids, my perspective is that it in only sort of true. My wife did not find fulfillment in the workplace and I was not completely qualified to take care of our 3 kids, all born withing 3 1/2 years.

    I think we all lost something in the transition to equality. Perhaps kids most of all. Most of us sat in the middle of the bid debates as the fringe from either side set the course. We didn’t talk about how to make thing work, what the contribution of unpaid work was, the value of community. family, or even considered reducing the workweek to fewer hours. We started having kids later in life. Of all the things my kids know more than my grandparents, very little is of much importance.

    This is a tremendous project, but at times I feel like with the passing of my grandparents and parents we have lost something very valuable and important and we don’t even have the knowledge that is was ever there. It’s not that we don’t miss it, we worship consumption, efficiency, business and profit. Shopping won’t fill the void.

    I can make my bit work for my kids, but little in life happens within these four walls.

    So what did we, as families and a culture lose? What changes can we make to improve?

    Ideas?

  8. When I was 50 my husband died. of cancer. 10 years later my youngest son of 32 died,. A few yrs after that, my oldest son 41 died. However,my youngest left me a most precious gift – a granddaughter who soon will be 21. After he died I contacted a wonderful woman who gave me the tools to see the positive things in life. I used to see life through the glass half empty, now it is full! I am grateful for my wonderful granddaughter. I am grateful for having a roof over my head, food on the table and wonderful friends. I am grateful for being in good health and having the means with which to travel. No matter what life throws you, there is always something for which to give thanks and a lesson to be learned from the difficult times in our lives. Live in the moment with no regrets about the past. We all did the best we could with the tools and knowledge we had at the time. Stay connected with community and friends. Because I know what it is like to lose a loved one, I now volunteer in a palliative care residence. It is such an honor to be by the side of a person whose body is leaving this earth. As we get older, perhaps we are not able to do things like we used to but doing whatever we can to the best of our ability and truly LIVING before we die is what counts. (I will be 69 in June – still young!)

  9. Dear Folks

    I have a question not a lesson. I think I am in the middle of learning a lesson and wonder if any of you have wisdom to share.
    I am 71, a widower for 12 years, the father of four sons and fond of women. Just before Christmas I received a phone call from my first love with whom I had not been in contact in over 40 years. The ensuing two conversations knocked our socks off, metaphorically speaking. I want us to meet and see what we shall see face to face but there is a catch: she is married and has been for a long time. She describes the marriage as never happy but says she has no intention of leaving. The conventional wisdom found on the internet is for me to high tail it out of there and, when I was younger, I probably would have. But now that I have less time left, I have more patience to wait and see what life or god is trying to tell me. Any thoughts offered kindly would be appreciated.

  10. Peter

    I share your sense of loss at valuable heritage that is vanishing but it is possible to bring these things back to life. For example, religion and spirituality which were were fundamental to our ancestors. Like many of my generation (early 70s)I turned my back on all that because I found it hollow and empty. For most of my life, I remained closed to the possibility there was anything there for me but in the past few years I have begun to change and now entertain the thought that god and I might develop a relationship. I think this has happened because I have thrown overboard much of what I was taught about god as a child and simply opened my heart to a loving presence in the universe. As the great American writerpsychologist Robert Coles wrote, “I have no fewer doubts than when I was young but they matter less.” Just one small example that our heritage does not have to disappear. Best wishes. Bob Miller

  11. Always be yourself. Those who do not accept you, are not meant to walk with you through the journey of life.

  12. Look I am not religious in any way however then ten commandments that the main religions should follow are I think an ideal way to which we should all aim to live our lives. If we all followed these principals what a peaceful world and inner beauty and happiness we would all have.

  13. I need to share my marriage strategy that has worked very well for me. I hope it can benefit others.

    Like all of our spouses mine is imperfect. We have 2 now adult sons. Early on my wife made it clear that I was only here for heavy lifting and a pay check. I struggled against that at first. But twice she took me to our clergy and I was informed I was to love her as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her. I took that to heart and worked hard at always being a submissive, cheerful servant.

    As our sons passed into their teenage years they came to despise me as the “home idiot” though I am the only source of income. I’m very competent and well thought of at work and my income is three times the average in our location. We live in an upper middle class neighborhood. So based on our cultural metrics I’m “successful”. I bring this up to point out that I am not the “village idiot”. My now adult sons are still frustrated with me because I’m always a happy, submissive person, and clearly not the model of macho man they see in our culture.

    With all that in mind the way I stay happy is by containing each area of my life. I will call this a box. When I am home I have out my cheerful, helpful, subservient box. When I go out with by best buddy I get to close that box and open the “this is really me” box. We laugh, make fun of each other, solve world problems, visit with friends we meet, and have a great time. I also get out this box when I travel by myself or do my hobbies. At work I have my serious, no nonsense, competent, but affable box open.

    Most of my male friends tell me that they would divorce or did divorce a wife who treated them the way mine treats me. But, I didn’t want to end my marriage over something I found I could manage.

    The net effect is that I’m a really happy almost 60 year old. My wife is happy and healthy. My sons are as happy as 20 somethings can be. I would encourage anyone who is “blocked” by an important relationship to use the box method.

    My box method pretty much springs from the profound Serenity prayer that AA uses.

  14. As a child I spent a great deal of time with my grandparents. Of the many things they shared with me was a sense of family history. I treasured their stories in my mind and heart. I am now in my 70s and have been videotpaing life stories for over 35 years. You can only imagine the experiences people have shared with me, and their famlies. I turned a hobby into an international business selling a cd download helping people to videotape their own family story forever. The cd is found on the web google: video life history, my living legacy. I owe so much to my grandparents. They showed me how to care and share.

  15. You only have one life. So choose the path wisely, but dont let the path choose you. You know where you want to be, and how you want to live your life. No one else can take that away from you.

  16. You know, I’ve often wondered, as many of you have, why?
    We chose to adopt our one and only son. From birthing to adulthood, we had him. We his parents, have been married 28+ years, normal home, normal problems, normal money issues, Church, picket fence, little dog, vacations, and on and on. Normal, right? Until 16, he is now 24 and seems to be in self destruction mode. Along with destrying us too. We love him beyond definition, but beer, drugs, money, girl friends, and laziness just showed up, and changed him forever, at least thats what we think. Our hearts are broken to say the least. I know there are no clear answers, but we have beaten ourselves up a million times in the last 8 years. We finally ordered him to get out, we assured him we love him no matter what, and we will be here short of death when he realizes that he is the one with the problem, and wants to have a relationship with us. Hurt? You bet, but we have to move on, and hope he comes back to us. This is written easily, but years of pain to get to this point needed to be done to save our lives. If this can in any way help somebody else, then the post is worth it.

  17. There are many important things that we all learn during life, and in our digital worlds it’s easy to lose these lessons.

    Take the time to teach your children what you’ve learned, and find ways to record and share your life lessons.

    Perhaps someone can benefit from them some day.

  18. OUR SPOT IN THE WORLD

    The Problem with “ACCEPTING” our SPOT in the world in pecking or whichever order the world proclaims, prefers, agrees on, preaches or promotes is the following:

    1.Because WE have accepted our SPOT based on all the external proof that we are now exhibiting or have exhibited in the past..we expect EVERYONE ELSE to adhere to the “ORDER GUIDELINES” too. In fact we can have quite militant expectations of adherence . let’s kid ourselves not dahlings!!!!!

    2. God forbid if we are unhappy with our spot and too chicken to accept it…or have stifled ambitions….or heck are just our plain egotistical selves..we would hate the guts of everyone who is in or is trying to be in a better spot than where the “generally agreed to guidelines would have them be”. We could be aggressive or genteel about it.

    Perhaps the only way out is to NOT RESERVE A SPOT FOR OURSELVES to start with.

  19. This is a meta-lesson that subsumes, or resolves the apparent contradictions between, many others:
    Love truth = get real.

    a. “Be honest” also with/about yourself. Many of us believe what we LIKE, whether it’s true or not; we all need to believe what’s true, whether we like it or not! Admit/embrace your idiosyncrasies/individuality, face your fears. If you don’t, you’ll rather hang on to self-serving delusions (ego) than learn something important, and your closest family will suffer the most. No denial, no blaming other people solely for having a problem with you. What you don’t know & your always-good intentions don’t make them wrong. Get real.

    b. Mind over matter. (Large statement:) The human brain exists to understand/predict indirect consequences, make unpleasant decisions, and act AGAINST simplistic instincts. (If instincts were sufficient, thinking would be no use.) So mind over matter – as long as you’ve properly assessed the (probabilities of) costs & benefits first. Be realistic, neither fearful nor pure-hopeful. The back-stop “expert lesson” is that there’s a limit to mind-over-matter: you can’t endure some things/people/behaviors forever no matter how hard you try, so in such cases, demand change and/or give up sooner than later. The hard part is, knowing what you’re willing/able to endure = more reality.

    c. Special case of “mind over matter”: Never shoot yourself in the foot (even if someone else wants you to). (Not saying you should be selfish.)

    d. Nobody’s perfect, understood as a fact, not as an excuse. Everyone has fears, blind spots, idiosyncrasies, a “stubbed toe” from their childhood, desire to humiliate others to prop themselves up…
    i. Be humble. You don’t know what-all you don’t / can’t know about yourself. Like my brother’s in-laws said to me once, “Yes, you 50-year-old whipper-snappers think you know a thing or two…”
    ii. Forgive your parents, for they too had imperfect parents.
    iii. Love your neighbor as yourself / be compassionate / the Golden Rule.

    e. (Fear of) embarrassment is not something to be avoided at all costs-to-yourself. Nobody else is so perfect that they deserve that much power over you.

  20. Relationship priorities nearest-first, a.k.a. “circles of concern”: spouse/partner, before children, before extended family and friends, before “what will people think”, before business/local/state/national/international politics. Especially the “spouse/partner before children” part, because
    (a) if you’re not hoping you’ll still have your spouse/partner long after the children have left, you’re exploiting him/her, and
    (b) whichever spouse gets this wrong will destroy the partner-relationship.
    Children specialize in figuring-out and exploiting whichever parent will best butter the children’s bread, while the children neither know nor care that they’re driving wedges between their parents. If (more-indulgent) parent A puts the children’s wants/wishes before parent B’s, parent A will relentlessly undermine parent B, and parent B will be ignored, side-stepped, disliked, and finally despised and ostracized. The whole dynamic is inevitable, spouse A is entirely responsible for it while spouse B cops all the damage, but don’t bother trying to explain that to spouse A, because s/he’s “by far the better parent” (seeing it from the child’s perspective, which is exactly the problem).

  21. It is natural for families and friends to grow apart with time. The answer to suffering caused by that is to focus more on one’s own needs and getting one’s life more in order. Sincerely focus on that and you will be surprised at the happiness you find. Always be open with love to anyone who reaches out to you. A friend in need is a friend indeed! But DO NOT depend on others for support of any kind. You came into this world alone you will leave it alone. There is no other way to think if you want find real fulfillment and happiness. That is the way of life. Acept it.

  22. If you cut corners doing anything in life, be prepared you’ll have to deal with it, most likely in a magnified form, later. Sometimes a lot later.
    Don’t take the easy route when the right thing to do is to go the long & thorny one. You’ll be sorry, if you do.

  23. I am also a heartbroken mother. I have no words to explain the pain a mother goes through when an adult child get stranged. I have 2 adult children and both are difficult with me; the girl has been a trouble and hates me. I know I wasn’t the best mother in thee world but I m sure I did the best that I had at hand. My daughter doesn’t allow I see my grandson who was born in my home and I helped as mich as I could her with the child. He’s 6 yrs old and since she moved out I cannot see both of them. I only rely in god to change this picture. I have even so depressed because of this situation. I cannot see light at the end of the tunnel. I fell I lost everything. My pain in unbearable.

  24. Although I’m only 24, I recently had the opportunity to interview a 98-year-old woman named Thelma, who has lived an incredible life and published her autobiography several years ago. The thing that stuck with me the most after talking to her was that she said that a lot of people tell her she’s amazing, but she disagrees with them and says that she’s simply enjoyed being alive. It’s so easy to get so caught up in everyday responsibilities that we forget to stop and enjoy the moment. Listening to her stories was an important reminder for me to take time to savour being alive instead of just focusing on getting by. This is the interview I did with her if you’d like to learn more about her story: http://classiclifecare.com/moments/thelma-shares-her-story-others-through-autobiography

  25. I was listening to the radio today and heard about this project there were many interesting comments and words of advice I have been married for 30 years and the one thing that I found that keeps me and my husbands marriage happy is that we are happy to be together we laugh often sometimes At each other sometimes at ourselves but we crack up to the point of tears at least once a week we really enjoyed being together we take weekend day trips even if it’s a ride in the country or to go have lunch at a place we’ve never been to before. Another very important thing is to be able to apologize when you’re wrong of course respect is very important and the ability to work together as a unit. Wish you all a healthy happy marriage.

  26. One lesson is you never stop learning. I’m 34 unmarried with no kids. Right now I am battling breast cancer. This is my greatest challenge so far. I’m learning to count my blessings over my troubles, to cherish the life God gave me and to truly LIVE and enjoy.

  27. I have a very difficult problem with my adult daughter. She is in her late 30’s and she has been punishing me for the last 7 years.I left her Dad after 32 years in an unhappy marriage but stayed for my children. They all were out of college 2 were married and on their own when I finally left for a man who cared and loved me, he treats me as if I matter. Well my oldest daughter will not except him or me. She isolates, me from my grandchildren. My other children have excepted my new life and are very involved with my new husband and our lives.I have asked her to attend therapy with me and told her she doesn’t have to except him but I would like to have a relationship with my grandchildren. She only lets me see them for 2 hours once a year at a baseball game with my ex-husband and his girl-friend and I am not to bring my husband which I honor. She doesn’t allow me to be in any pictures with my grandchildren or spend any alone time with them. What do I do. It is painful every single day of my life.

  28. Dear Terry (May 12 2014), Sara (Dec 20 2014), Marion (Feb 18 2015): Believe me I understand how you (sometimes) feel, as my daughter won’t even reply to me, so I hope I may say something you can use. Merely look around: many “families” have rifts, or quantities of pain that might be better off as rifts. Many apples do fall very far from the tree (and this is nobody’s fault). Those who wish to learn from their parents, get parents with no lessons to teach, and children who don’t care to know. [Thus I know how God feels about us-all denying Him, and also, why He merely waits for us to come to our senses (if ever): can’t force, nor bribe, nor manipulate, nor flatter, any love worth having.] Fortunately, we are not on this earth solely to have children. Doing so is an act of service, for which we might not ever be appreciated or even admitted, depending on who the co-parent and children are [just as many of us will never care how far God goes/went to make Himself available to us]. You (everyone) did what you thought best for your children, they were still going to leave home, you were always going to miss them, and your life was never going to be over then. Please don’t make a habit of grieving; do find Someone/someone/something else to love and enjoy.

  29. My Mom passed away 10 yrs ago at 95 yrs old. She was the matriarch of a large family and a friend to many. She always had visitors because she was cheerful and made everyone feel better. Her favorite saying was, “You can have friends and you can complain but you can’t do both”. So true.

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