ad•vice: Bill Cosby said, “A word to the wise isn’t necessary—it’s the stupid ones that need the advice.” So true. But I think we’ve all been stupid at some point. For instance, has your spouse or parent ever told you how to do something, and you thought, I know what I’m doing. Then, you were forced to call on that spouse or parent to get you out of a jam that you could’ve avoided if you’d just followed their advice in the first place. I think we’ve all been there.
Some say there are two kinds of advice: solicited and unsolicited. (I’ve also heard it as: good or bad.) Erma Bombeck said, “When your mother asks, Do you want a piece of advice? it is merely a formality. It doesn’t matter if you answer ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ You’re going to get it anyway.” Most unsolicited advice comes from well-meaning people that care about you, and don’t want to see you go through what they’ve been through. They learned something valuable from their mistakes, and they want to pass that knowledge on to you.
Most of the time, we don’t have the patience to listen. We think we’ve got a good handle on the situation—and it doesn’t matter how wrong we are. We, most of us, are stubborn, and we think we’ve come so far from where our mothers and grandmothers were. It seems that we’ve tried to leave everything from their generations behind.
I got an email, the daily tip from Fitness Magazine, with the subject line, “8-Minutes to a Perfect Posture.” When I saw that, it made me think of school back in the day where girls spent a great deal of time learning things like posture and penmanship, while the boys learned math and sciences, and while it’s great that girls and boys learn the same things, I think we need to go back and re-examine some of the essentials that we left behind.
For instance, when I met Julie Foster at the post office, I learned that she was my neighbor. That’s sad, though, because I’d been living in the same house for over two years by that time… and we hadn’t met yet. She told me that Jason’s grandmother, Denise Selby, had been one of the best neighbors. When Julie’s family had moved into their house, Denise had greeted her. Probably with some kind of baked goods, though I can’t remember for sure. Julie said when they put out their Christmas lights, Denise would write up a card for her, telling her how nice they looked. That’s the way her generation did things. They got to know their neighbors and they looked out for each other.
A lady that my mom worked with at the Chariton Library recently retired after around 40 years of service. When I had each of my four babies, Bonnie gave my mom a small gift and card for me. Bonnie also gets flowers for all the librarians on their birthdays. She still gives money to all of her kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids in their birthday cards, which is no small feat since there are plenty of them!
Possibly we’re busier, these days. Most families have two working parents with kids involved in every sport and activity available to them. As I’ve said, though, we’ve got dishwashers, vacuums, clothes washers and dryers, all things that most of our grandmothers didn’t have back then. Most of them cooked and baked meals that resembled Thanksgiving feasts every day, not to mention the special occasion meals, and the endless supplies of casseroles for grieving neighbors or new parents. Have you ever seen these women at work? Fresh baked bread, roasted chickens, homemade noodles. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.
My mother-in-law can whip up a good homemade meal. Sherryl Selby is probably the best cook, though she doesn’t think so. She always finds something wrong with everything she makes, even if no one else can tell. She asks, “Are the potatoes too salty?” or “Is this roast too dry?” We can’t answer because our mouths are too full. My guess is we all find it delicious; I know I do. I always tell her that if someone complains, maybe they should make it themselves. That doesn’t stop Wesley, my dear father-in-law, from complaining. He may say the potatoes are too salty and the roast too dry, but he must like them that way, because he’s been eating the same pototes and roast for over 45 years now!
Speaking of Wesley. He always tells me to be careful driving. Probably because he knows I didn’t grow up driving gravel roads, and I’m prone to slide off into ditches, regardless of weather conditions. He worries about us. He wants to take care of us. I appreciate that. It’s nice to feel cared about. And I do my best to drive carefully. And he does his best to not worry.
Earlier, I said, possibly we’re busier. Sometimes, though, it seems like people don’t care about each other as much as they used to. In bigger cities, people just drive by when someone’s broken down at the side of the road—and sometimes they HONK! As if that helps. When we lived in Ames, I spotted a guy pushing a car by himself. No one was steering, and no one was stopping for him. They all just zoomed by, honking and yelling. So I stopped. And after we’d gotten it going up the hill, a van full of guys stopped. They told us to jump into the car and they’d push. I said, “I was just helping,” and ran back to my car where my kids were waiting for me.
Most of the time, I don’t give advice to my kids in the form of words. I want them to see the things I do, and repeat them. Maybe not everything I do… after all, I’m not perfect. But I try to show them how to treat others with respect and kindness. Because if more people cared about how they treated others, we’d live in a much better world.