Is there more at stake to the choices you make than just your future? Could you be living a life that is not of your own making? These were the questions that raced through my mind one very ordinary looking day. It turned out to be a mind-opening day.
I was having breakfast in a restaurant on a recent working trip. The waiter greeted me warmly as I went to serve myself. He then retreated to a corner of the room, taking on the common stance that waiters assume with their hands clasped in front, a towel dangling between them.
As I sat down to eat he came and asked whether I needed some coffee or tea. Not being particularly fond of hot drinks I declined and said the juice would suffice. He noticed that my glass was small and offered to bring a larger glass of juice.
So the morning went on. He would serve me, then go back to the corner and watch. It was as though at every moment he was observing me and asking himself what else he could do to make my breakfast better and my stay more comfortable.
I got drawn in by all this and also started to observe him. He was humble, quiet, almost making an effort not to be noticed as he stood in that corner. His manner seemed to suggest that he was not important at that point, the customers were.
As I stared at him standing in that corner I was drawn back in time. I remembered that my own grandfather had worked in a hotel “I doubt it’s called a hotel in his days”. He was not a waiter and I can’t remember exactly what he did there, but it suddenly dawned on me that he might have been in a similar situation – catering to customers’ needs in the hotel.
Wow, I thought, what a change of roles. I mean, there was my grandfather working in a hotel some decades ago and doing what he could to support his family and make a better life for his children. Now, here I was, two generations later, sitting in a similar hotel and being waited on by someone.
It struck me that my being in the position as a result, one way or another, of the sacrifice, dedication, love, and commitment of my grandfather to his wife and his children. It wasn’t just him though, but everyone else that came before me. My grandparents raised up my parents, who raised me. Where would I be had they all not done their part?
I also wondered as I watched the waiter what he was thinking. Was he thinking about staying in a hotel someday and also being waited on by someone? Did he ever dream of being on the other side of the situation? What were his hopes and dreams for the future? I don’t know, but I wanted to tell him that he could have any future he wanted for himself. I wanted to tell him that he could get to the other side. It is more likely, though, that he was thinking about his family and what he could do to provide for them right there and then by working in that hotel.
As for my grandfather, he did turn the tables and move to the other side of the equation. How? Through my parents, through me, and through every one of my family members that have a better life today because he worked hard. Whatever kind of life we have today, he contributed to it. The success or failure of any one generation is influenced by the success or failure of the preceding generations.
I realised at that moment that we carry the dreams and hopes of the generations before us. What parent does not wish his children to have a better life than he has, no matter how good it is? Would my grandfather not feel a sense of accomplishment to see his own children and grandchildren being able to afford to stay in a hotel and have the finer things in life? Would he not feel a sense of failure to see them suffering and struggling through life two generations after him?
Remember the sacrifice and dedication shown to you by those that walked before you. Remember every day as you make your choices in life that you carry their hopes and dreams on your shoulders. They have done what they could to make things better for you and to give you what you need to succeed. Will you make them proud or let them down? Are you building on the foundation they established or are you destroying the hard labour of their hands? Remember the generations past.
At the same time, I realised that we carry the seed of prosperity for the generations to come after us. What you do and the choices you make will influence the kind of life your children and grandchildren will have. Your life is not really your own. Many others are affected by it.
Prosperity does not refer here to simply financial well-being. There is more to it than that. Imparting the right values, knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs is all part of contributing to the prosperity of the generations after you. After all, you can leave your children an inheritance of millions of dollars, but if you have not taught them the right attitude towards money or given them the knowledge of using it well, they will lose it all in a short time, or worse still kill themselves with the excesses of life. The Bible advises that we “Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will show thee; thy elders and they will tell thee.” Wisdom is a treasure to be passed on.
There are those of you out there for whom the past generations have been a disappointment and have passed on a torch to you that was nearly burned out. They could perhaps have done better and made things a lot easier for you. Realise, though, that you still have the power to turn things around. Your parents’ failures do not have to be your failures. Neither do you have to suffer the consequences of their mistakes forever. You have the opportunity now to make things better for those that will be after you.
Henry Ward Beecher advises that “We should so live and labor in our times that what came to us as seed may go to the next generation as blossom, and what came to us as blossom may go to them as fruit. This expresses the true spirit in the love of mankind.” As the torch handed to us by our forefathers burns in our hands we should endeavour to hand it to the next generation burning even brighter.