Granny and the election
By Lisa Smartt
Posted: Wednesday, October 29, 2008 8:34 pm
My grandmother died last week at the age of 91. Just mentioning her name makes me think of words like strength, work, character. She was an incredibly strong lady. I believed there wasn’t anything she couldn’t accomplish if she set her mind to it. When my mother was a child, Granny would rise early on Sunday morning, cook a big breakfast, kill a chicken for lunch, prepare her Sunday School lesson while my mom and her siblings were plucking the chicken, make lunch preparations, go to Sunday School and church, invite a lot of company home for a big dinner and put out a beautiful spread ... and Granny called that a day of rest. My generation could learn something from hers.
My grandmother lived through 16 American presidents. Amazing. At her birth, Woodrow Wilson was the president and the United States had just engaged in World War I. Years later our country would be in the middle of the Great Depression. Rural families like my grandmother’s had the ability to supply food through gardening and tending livestock, even in dire circumstances. But there would be absolutely no extras. Her childhood would not have even included the terms “shopping” or “entertainment.” There was no shopping. There was working. There was living. And amazingly, they were happy.
Some commentators would like to compare our current economic state with that of my grandmother’s childhood. I find that a difficult comparison. Many Americans are still going to the movies, buying new school clothes and eating out. I’m not saying times are not hard. But our current economic situation doesn’t compare with what people went through during the Great Depression. Neal Cavuto pointed out that when the new I Phone was introduced, there were long lines in big cities across America. People stood in line to spend several hundred dollars on a fancier telephone. In the Great Depression there were long lines in big cities to obtain bread.
When my mother was a child, my grandfather parked their car in the garage for two years. Gas was too high in his estimation. So, they took the wagon or the mule. I know. Most of us don’t have access to wagons or mules. We depend on cars as transportation. The point is that Pappa was willing to drastically inconvenience himself and his family in order to save money during difficult times. That’s what his generation had that my generation is clearly missing. The ability to do without. The ability to say “no” to one’s self and, more importantly, one’s children.
Our country is preparing to elect a president. I care deeply about the presidential election. I was blessed to be raised by parents who care deeply about elections. They taught us a valuable respect for the entire process. But as I reflect on our nation’s election and my grandmother’s life and death, I’m struck by some powerful lessons. Though my grandmother lived through 16 presidencies, her life remained fairly consistent through all of them. She and my grandfather lived on less than what they made. She experienced a rich quality of life that was based on Biblical wisdom, work and service. None of the 16 presidents affected that. I’m supporting a specific candidate in Tuesday’s election. But I’m not counting on the president to change my life. Thankfully, Granny taught me better than that.
Editor’s note: Lisa Smartt’s column appears each Wednesday in the Friends and Neighbors section of The Messenger. Mrs. Smartt is the wife of Philip Smartt, the University of Tennessee at Martin parks and recreation and forestry professor, and is mother to two boys, Stephen and Jonathan. She is a freelance writer and speaker. Her book “The Smartt View: Life, Love, and Cluttered Closets” is available at The Messenger, The University of Tennessee at Martin bookstore or by mail for $10, plus $2 shipping. Send checks to Lisa Smartt, 300 Parrott Road, Dresden TN 38225. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in The Messenger 10.29.08