My grandmother was not an academically educated woman. She died at the age of 73 without knowing how to read or write or drive a car. She grew up poor in Peoria, Illinois, moved to Wisconsin as an adult and was a single mother to three children, my dad the middle child.
She became an avid churchgoer and raised her children in church. By the time I came along, she was Ms. Ceoria who sang hymns and wore wild church hats and cooked and cleaned for a living, and who loved the poor and needy with all her heart.
This elderly, uneducated woman taught me more about life than anything I’ve ever learned in school books. She took care of people and really loved them.
She made delicious homemade meals for the needy out of her own meager income and walked them to whomever needed them. Walked. In the heat. In the rain. In the freezing cold. She walked. Sometimes next door. Sometimes across town.
We walked with her many times, my sister and I. Trudging beside her carrying totes full of hot food.
We’d deliver the meal and then stay to talk and to pray, offer hugs and hope, always hope. Folks were so happy to see her. Their faces would light up like I remember mine doing on Christmas day. They’d hug her tight and thank her, often with tears on their cheeks. Sometimes her recipients offered us a ride home, sometimes they couldn’t.
You know what, though? I never heard her complain about walking. Not once.
She’d complain if I chewed my gum too loud or if I ran up the stairs. She’d complain if my sister rolled her eyes or scratched too long at those itchy church tights. But she never complained about walking. Never complained about giving. Never complained about serving. Certainly never complained about loving.
All the education in all the finest schools doesn’t measure up to what this illiterate, poor woman taught me. It never will.
I am a teacher, a parent, and now a homeschooler. I spend much time researching the best curriculums out there. The best way to educate. The newest trends and the latest research.
What if, though, the things my children truly need to learn can’t be learned through books?
What if I spend so much time on spelling lists and states and capitals and math facts that I forget what true education really is?
Because I want my kids to walk and not complain if that’s what it takes to show someone love. I want them to carry hot food and hope and love right into someone’s living room and linger long enough for hugs and prayer and grace. I want them to be sacrificial servants.
What curriculum will show them this? In which book will I find this lesson?
We read our Bible and we pray, but even then, the God of all wisdom and of the ages reminds me that I am the book by which my children will learn. I can read them the words and fill their heads with stories, but if I don’t live what I want my children to live, they will never absorb the message.
I need to walk and not complain. I need to love loudly and through the mess of my own life and through the mess of someone else’s life if I want my children to do the same. What does it profit me if I can read a million books or write a million words if I can’t just walk without complaining to someone who needs me?
I need to remind myself daily, as I by God’s grace raise these little ones I love so dearly, that before the math assignments and art lessons, before the spelling tests and geography quizzes, I need to teach and model just love and just grace. If that’s all they ever learn they will be wise beyond their years.
My grandmother died unable to read and to write. The church was overflowing at her funeral. The stories of her love and mercy flowed out of so many. We laughed as we remembered her, ate good food just as she would have wanted us to, and smiled at the way she made us all feel loved.
It seems the world doesn’t truly measure worth by the standards and titles we fight so hard for. It seems that what people remember about your life is not your ACT score or how smart your kids are, just how you made them feel when you were with them. That’s important. That’s enough.