This time of year always reminds me of my Grandpa Kajer. He was a farmer in southern Minnesota, and my earliest memories are of the farm and learning how to drive a tractor at 4 years old.
I remember the huge farm house – at least that’s how I remember it – the silos and wild cats, and the old rope swing that hung from the huge tree in the middle of the yard. My Grandma Kajer was the traditional farm wife caring for five children, but God and the Catholic Church were her life. I would spend hours watching Mother Angelica on TV, saying the rosary and singing Alleluias in church. She made rosaries to send oversees and baby caps for newborns at the Catholic hospital.
Those experiences shaped who I am today and how I raise my own daughter. Some of the values that came from my childhood include hard work, humility and gratitude. Grandparents teach us about our history, but in reality shape our futures. Stories and pictures remind us of those values and remind us to pass them along to our children.
In today’s world, these things are much harder to do. We have activities galore: TV, Facebook, and texting take away from our ability to model values for our children, which are established not through words, but through action. Going with my grandparents to church every Sunday, I experienced what prayer, giving of one’s self, and humility really were.
I often think about what I am teaching my daughter. Does she know how important it is not to ignore the homeless person we pass on the street, or why it is better to walk away than say something mean back to a classmate? Of course, we talk about these things, but for her to see me modeling these values, that is what will teach her, and I can forget that sometimes. That is my responsibility, and her father’s, and her grandparents, and many others. She learns by watching how we respond to life.
What an immense responsibility.
It is in these moments that I think about my grandparents and how they gave me the greatest gifts – not an X-box or smartphone or the latest Barbie doll. They gave me their time and shared their story with me. They held my hand when picking strawberries and let me drive the tractor in the ditch so that I could learn how to drive back out again. Their story has become my story and I can’t wait until I’m 90 and hear my daughter’s story.
Amy Bloch is the executive director of Catholic Charities, which has offices in Sioux City, Fort Dodge, Carroll, Storm Lake and Spencer.