11 Unexpected Life Lessons, Part II

Wisdom shows up in the most unexpected places. 

In Part I of 11 Unexpected Life Lessons, I shared seven valuable lessons I learned from my granddaughter Lauren during a recent beach trip. In this post, I'll share the remaining four.

8. Don’t let a lack of resources stop you. Because Lauren’s mommy knew the beach house we were staying in wasn’t equipped for children, she packed a basket of toys to bring with them. In the last-minute rush to get on the road, however, she left the basket behind. “I can’t believe I forgot it. What are they going to play with?”

We easily entertained Caroline, the 8-month-old, with plastic measuring spoons, bowls, and lids. Lauren, on the other hand, proved what I’ve always believed, that an imagination is the only toy a child needs.

One morning I turned from the stove where I’d been fixing breakfast to discover that she’d sorted all the Rubbermaid lids by shape and lined them up from smallest to largest across the kitchen floor. When she tired of that, she grouped them according to color.

She was also fascinated by the assortment of decorative soaps in the bathrooms. One day I let her sniff a pump bottle of lemon-scented soap and a pretty dispenser of orange soft soap. Ten minutes later, Lauren grabbed me by the hand and pulled me into her bedroom. There she proudly showed me what she’d done—tucked a bottle of soap into each of the twin beds. She placed them on the pillows and pulled the covers up to their “necks.” She’d even put her pacifier next to the largest bottle. While I watched, she patted their “heads,” planted a gentle kiss on each, and bid them “night night.”

Sometimes I let a lack of resources hinder me. Other times, I follow Lauren’s example and focus more on what I have than what I don’t have. When I think creatively, I’m often pleasantly surprised.

9. Talk to strangers. While some children are shy, most are eager and interested in the people around them. They don’t care if they’re young, old, black, or white. They can’t tell if a person is above or below their socioeconomic status, and they’re terrible at guessing a stranger’s education level. For them, all it takes is a friendly face to spark a conversation.

All week long I watched Lauren work her charm. She attracted people like a magnet. Within ten minutes she was chattering away with two little girls in a tidal pool. She told the cashier at BiLo her name, and told a shirtless man with a long beard that she liked “pink ice cweam.”

On our last day at the beach, she invited me into the tidal pool. Before long five cousins vacationing from North Carolina and Georgia had gathered around us. We had a lovely conversation. It’s amazing what you talk about when your toes are buried in silt.

Because of Lauren’s outgoing nature, I also talked with the parents and grandparents of the friends she made. We discovered common interests, swapped vacation tales, and shared faith stories. Lauren taught me that strangers are only friends you haven’t met yet.

10. Ask lots of questions. “What do turtles eat? Where do birds sleep? Where’d the water go? Why does Papa snore?” Lauren’s curiosity is boundless as she learns about the world around her.

My curiosity should be equally far-reaching. Because adults have a greater ability to understand and engage, we should ponder and question, then search out the answers.

Here are some questions my week with Lauren sparked: How many times a day does a child laugh? Why does humidity make hair curlier? How much sand can a child ingest before suffering ill effects? How long does it take 52-year-old muscles to recover from a week of carrying, lifting, bending, crawling, and running?

11. Sing often. It doesn’t take much for Lauren to break out into song. She sang about “the wittle white duck fwoatin’ on the wawer” on the way to the hardware store. She serenaded us with, “Zacchaeus was a wee wittle man,” as we played in the ocean.

She even made up a brand new chorus to Old MacDonald Had a Farm. Remember her love for the decorative soap at the beach house? The sweetly-scented toiletries inspired this: “. . . and on that farm he had a bar of soap, E-I, E-I, O. With a wash-wash here and a wash-wash there, here a wash, there a wash, everywhere a wash-wash.”

I noticed that when we sang along with her happy choruses, we smiled, too. It’s quite difficult to sing and frown at the same time, but why would we want to? Singing about how “God made the mountains, and God made the trees” reminded us that our great big Father God was perfectly capable of taking care of us. There’s a reason why the psalmist urged his listeners to “put on the garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness” (Isa. 61:3). Even if we’re not singing praise songs, music ministers to our hearts.

I hope by now you agree that profundity doesn’t have to be complex. Instead, it can be refreshingly simple, just like the little girl I spent the week with. As we officially enter the summer season, I hope you’ll take time to look closely at the world around you, ask for help when needed, spend time with people you love, laugh a lot, respect your limitations, slow down and savor, don’t let limited resources stop you, talk to strangers, ask questions, and, most of all, wherever you are, be all there.

 “. . . and a little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6).

Have a great summer!

If you missed Part I of "11 Unexpected Life Lessons," CLICK HERE.

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  1. Love, love, this! Very sweet and well said!

  2. And a little child shall lead them, right? I'm sure I've taken that verse out of context, but you know what I mean. :)

  3. Thank you for sharing this two-part series! Singing really does help the whole of us. And making up songs...sounds like loads of fun.