Reflections: Values over valuables

George Rowe


In my latest reflection article I made a statement: “A legacy is not just about money or things or stuff that is tangible. Legacy is also about values over valuables.” I would suspect that every parent and grandparent is concerned about the value system we would like to teach and lead by example as our children and grandchildren grow into adulthood. I would also suspect three of the hardest words to say are, “I am sorry.”

On the contrary, three of the greatest words one can speak are, “I love you.” Let me tell you a story of values where in one sentence I heard my grandchild say, “Poppy, I am sorry… and I love you.”

I went to bed at about 10:00 pm with everything ready for our early morning hunt. Guns, ammunition, knives, ropes, cooking utensils, plenty of food and my special binoculars were neatly arranged for the next morning.

I was awakened at 4:00 am, and after finding my bearings, I prepared breakfast and then awakened my granddaughter to join me for some early morning food and fellowship—not a lot of conversation this early in the morning. At any time I expected my granddaughter to say, “Poppy, I am so tired…I’m going back to bed.” Not so, she actually showed some excitement, albeit just a little which was very unusual.

It was now 4:30 am. We neatly arrange all supplies in the 1992 Ford Truck and just as we were about to back out of the driveway I realized I had forgotten something. “Sweetheart,” I said, “I forgot to grab the binoculars. They are on the end table, could you go get them please.” The response was a little odd. “Do we have to take the binoculars?” she asked. My response was simple. “Yes. This is the restricted time of the hunting season and I have to be sure that our animal is legal before we take it down.” Her response was, “Oh!” She then went and grabbed the binoculars.

As a parent or a grandparent you instinctively know when something is just not right between you and your child. I was more than interested in how this day was about to unfold.

My granddaughter, who was still very young, hunted and fished with me on many occasions. She was always very talkative while travelling to our destination, after we arrived and always on our way back home—especially when she out-fished me.

This particular morning there was complete silence. I attributed this to the fact that it was still dark and sleepiness was settling upon her. She was awakened only after I had hit an unexpected pot hole and it was like I had turned on a tape recorder. Questions about where we were, are we going to see a moose, when do you expect we will get home and, “Poppy, do you think we will need to use the binoculars today?” I explained to her how important this tool was in helping us identify a legal moose and without it we may not be successful.

I really pushed how proud I was of my binoculars and proud because it was a gift that her mom had given me and the fact that I had many successful hunts because of them. Her body language and my parental instincts were telling me that her unusual mood had something to do with the binoculars. I wasn’t sure and so I asked no questions.

It was about mid-morning when I spotted something on the far side of a cutover. Trying to focus on what I saw I heard my granddaughter ask, “Poppy, are you going to need the binoculars?” When I looked at her I saw hurt and pain in her eyes. Something is just not right here. My sensitivity alerted me and my inner voice said, “Please don’t question her about the binoculars.”

Before I answered her question she reached into the backseat and passed me this beautiful case with a much beloved pair of binoculars. I quickly opened the case and pulled out my binoculars… in two pieces. That’s right, two pieces.

My silent decibel level had reached about 150 and in my spirit I was shouting, “No! No! No! Not my binoculars!” I was absolutely stunned but at that moment in time I was not prepared to confront my granddaughter and her facial expressions told me that she was not prepared to be confronted.

She had a million questions: “Poppy, how could that happen? Did you drop them? Can you repair them? Poppy, how much did they cost? Poppy…are you disappointed? Does this mean we have to go home?” I immediately responded and I will never forget my own words. “Sweetheart, this is just stuff. If I can’t fix them I will buy a new set. We are still going to have a most wonderful day. Now, you look at Poppy and give me a big smile.” We never talked about binoculars again for the rest of the day.

We arrived home late in the evening with a few chicken but no moose. I hadn’t spoken to my wife about the binoculars until after our granddaughter was off to bed and sound asleep. I explained to my wife about the events of the day and was convinced that our granddaughter was responsible for the broken binoculars. My wife simply asked, “George, how are you going to approach her and ask the question?” “I am not,” I said. “I believe she will approach me.” The next day I did the necessary repairs and still use the binoculars to this day.

About a week after this incident my wife and I were shopping out of town and again our granddaughter was with us. I was walking down an aisle all by myself when suddenly my granddaughter was by my side and she reached out and took me by the right hand. I knew this was the moment of truth. Remember, we had never talked about the binoculars since that eventful day. Gripping my hand she said, “Poppy, I am sorry and I love you very, very much.”

“Do you have something to tell me?” I asked. “Yes Poppy. I broke your binoculars and I am so sorry.” I then looked at her and said, “As we walk this aisle please tell me your story.” She did. Without a lot of flair and childlike exaggeration she finished her story and then said, “Poppy, I’m so glad we can have this conversation without you getting really upset with me.” Then she said, “Poppy, you knew from the beginning that I broke the binoculars. Why didn’t you question me about it?”

I stopped in the middle of the aisle and bending down I looked her straight in the eye and said, “Sweetheart, the values that Nanny and Poppy teach you and lead by example are values you want to live by and because of that I knew you would eventually tell the truth.” We hugged each other and again she said, “Poppy, I love you.”

The Bible says, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32). The older we get the more we ought to realize that we set examples by what we teach and by how we live. My granddaughter was never questioned about whether she did or did not break the binoculars. She knew how important truth was and when she told the truth she felt freedom. Not only did she feel freedom but she felt arms of love reaching completely around her and she could say to the world, “I am loved.”

Until next time, draw upon the real values of life and remember that the sun is always shining.