Pass it on: Lessons for my grandchildren learned in the Philippines

As a grandfather, I'm always mindful of what I can teach my grandchildren – and things I still need to learn myself.

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  • My wife and I have five wonderful daughters, and they have blessed us with 11 grandchildren. I find myself thinking about those sweet little kids all the time – hoping they will grow up to be good men and women, and find joy and happiness in their lives.

  • Recently, my wife and I took a wonderful 12-day trip to the Philippines to visit my brother and his wife who are serving a mission for our church. I learned some important lessons I want to pass on to my grandchildren.

  • Kindness always wins

  • There were a few exceptions, like the lady at the airport who lied to us about taxis, but overall the Filipino people are friendly and courteous. I was very impressed with the good-natured people I met. The warm smiles and friendly hellos broke through the differences in language and culture.

  • What do I want my grandchildren to learn? Kindness is not limited by language, race, culture or nation – it’s universal. We are all God’s children and he wants us to treat each other with respect and kindness. I hope my grandchildren will be like the Filipino people – good, friendly and kind to everyone around them.

  • Be patient

  • I’ve driven the gridlocked lanes of the 405 in L.A. I’ve made my way along the crawling freeways of Chicago, Houston, Boston and other traffic-heavy cities. But none of them compare to the everyday traffic of the Philippines. Driving there is an art. What looks and feels like chaos is actually a well-orchestrated symphony. Two lanes become four. Clogged intersections somehow open up and allow just the right amount of cars through. When you take a step back and look at the whole picture, it’s quite an amazing thing.

  • What do I want my grandchildren to learn? In a word, patience – not just when they start to drive, but patience in every aspect of their lives. Our world moves too fast, and we expect things to happen right now. I hope my grandchildren will learn that waiting for something is OK. If they don’t get what they want right at the moment, they’ll be just fine. I especially hope they will have patience with other people. Patience truly is a virtue – one our society is losing.

  • Don’t be critical

  • I’m a work comp guy, so noticing things that potentially lead to work-related accidents is just something I do. I went to a local shopping center one day and there was a group of men painting the outside structure, which was about three stories high. Instead of a well-balanced scaffolding upon which they could stand, there was a flimsy assembly of poles tied together. It reminded me of the things we built at Boy Scout camp. Moving along the poles, with a simple rope tied around their waist, the workers leaned far and wide to spread their paint. I watched them for 10 or 15 minutes, certain I would witness an accident. I didn't.

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  • What do I want my grandchildren to learn? To not be critical. I’m guilty on two counts regarding this particular experience. First, I’m guilty of thinking how crazy the Filipino workers were to rely on what I saw as an inadequate set up. And second, I’m guilty of just the opposite – thinking that too many of our safety practices in the U.S. are stupid and go way overboard. I need to be less critical and realize that I’m not as smart as I might think I am. Maybe my grandchildren can learn that lesson earlier in life than I have.

  • Don’t take it for granted

  • Poverty in the Philippines is extreme. It honestly breaks your heart to see the living conditions so many Filipino’s face. However, against the backdrop of poverty you see people who work hard every day, who love their families and who want to improve their lives. Unfortunately, they face a lot of obstacles – widely available, quality education being high on that list.

  • What do I want my grandchildren to learn? Don’t take your blessings for granted. The vast majority of people in the U.S. have access to a good education, opportunities to earn a good living, clean water, decent housing, healthcare and more. I know our country isn’t perfect. I know people in this country live in poverty. For most of us, though, we have all we need and more.

  • Room for improvement

  • What do I want my grandchildren to learn?

  • I want them to learn that we can all do better. We can be more friendly and kind to people around us – especially those who are different from us. We can be less critical – give people the benefit of the doubt. We can be happy and content with what we have and recognize that we are very blessed.

  • I want them to learn that it doesn’t matter what we do for a living, how much money we make, what kind of car we drive, or what kind of house we live in.

  • What matters is what kind of person we are, how we treat other people, how hard we work (regardless of what type of work we do), how honest we are and what we do with our talents and blessings.

  • I hope my grandchildren learn all those lessons – and I hope I do too.

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Steve Schmutz is a devoted husband, father of five daughters, grandfather of 11, and a  software entrepreneur specializing in workers comp and risk. http://www.claimwire.com/

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