Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Lessons from my Grandfather

Some of my earliest childhood memories revolve around time spent with my grandparents. With each tight hug from Grandpa Al, I was reminded of the countless conversations and visits I had with him. Last week, I had the honor of remembering those stories with friends and family as we celebrated the life of my grandfather.

I returned to my home in Minnesota last week for my grandfather’s funeral. During the prayer service, I listened to numerous stories that gave testimony to this man of great character. Grandpa Al loved to talk about anything, but in particular he loved talking about farming, his time spent serving in Panama during World War II, and the years he working for a farmer’s cooperative. These conversations which tended to bore me a bit while I was younger, I found to be instrumental when forming the values I still hold today.

As the son of Norwegian farmers, Al loved to talk with my dad about his farming business. It was through these conversations I learned the passion one must have for the earth to be a good farmer. My grandfather would talk about growing much of their own food and explain the careful art of growing crops. His love of the outdoors influenced me to spend as many waking hours outside or to eat every lunch I could with my dad in the wheel-well of a John Deere tractor.

The stories he would tell of his time in the service or working for the co-op always held a theme of caring for your neighbor. Every story ended with, “Well, all you need to do is treat people with respect and serve those around you.” It seems like an obvious statement, but one that many of us often forget. As a man baptized and confirmed in the Lutheran tradition, and long-time member of Zion Lutheran Church, he had lived with this mentality his whole life. Today, I know serving those around me includes all of creation. With energy conservation, I am doing my part to fight climate change to protect my neighbors across the world. In buying organically grown foods, I am protecting wildlife from dangerous chemicals.

Even though I’m sure my grandfather would not have considered himself an environmentalist, it is with these lessons on farming, faith, and fellowship with one another that has led me to my current work. With the passing of one generation, I sat with my father last week to discuss the farm bill, organic farming, genetically modified crops, and being a servant to the land and our neighbor.

Even though my family jokes that I am the Seattle hippie who will work for tofu, it’s this same family that has taught me the life lessons to lead me where I am now. Tusen tak, Bestefar.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This brought tears to my eyes. We take what the old ones taught us and make it our own for our generation. Thank you, Kaitlin.