Things My Papa Taught Me

By: Erin Roberts
| November 5, 2020 |

Our gentle, quiet, strong, and sacrificial Papa. It’s been a year now since he went home to the Father, but I think of him often. I can’t help but miss the friend he was to me, but I also want to purposefully remember the details about him so that I don’t forget him with time. He is so much a part of who I am that I know I could never really forget him. There is so much joy in remembering that.

The lessons and values he instilled in me have helped shape my thoughts and actions and I am grateful for the things Papa taught me. That man lived through so much and held so much wisdom. I couldn’t help but share a few of those things. Grandpas are special, and I was fortunate enough to know mine and learn so much from him.

Family First

From a young age, Papa’s family was a priority. When his dad suffered from a stroke and was no longer able to work, Papa, without hesitation, enlisted himself into the Navy at seventeen in order to send money back home. Afterward, he forewent a college education at Auburn University in order to work and take care of his mother and sisters, one of which was dying of cancer.

He experienced hardship in a way I cannot begin to relate to, and he chose to sacrifice so that his family would be taken care of. That didn’t change as he had children and then grandchildren. He has always lived in such a way as to be able to save and give what he had to those he cared about most – his family. 

Papa taught me the gift of family and how special that is. Family comes first, and at the end of the day, they are what matter most. 

The Value of Hard Work

Papa taught me about the reward of hard work and labor with your own two hands. I learned this on our walks through the growing vegetable garden and talks over iced tea admiring our freshly mowed lawn. My grandfather worked tirelessly (yes, to provide) but I am convinced he secretly loved the satisfaction of it all.

There is so much to be said for pouring yourself into something and getting to witness the fruits of your labor. Even when the process isn’t “fun” or “enjoyable,” the reward of seeing what your hard work produces is a feeling that makes it all worth it. I am thankful every day to have witnessed this lesson first hand.

Teach People How to Treat You

I remember one time complaining to Papa about the way I had been treated at a job during his last months here. I tend to be the biggest people pleaser and sometimes that means caring too much about what others think or getting walked over. I remember Papa telling me to “make them respect you.” 

I thought about this for a while, and what he meant by that. Papa has always carried himself with so much dignity and humble confidence, that he didn’t have to tell someone to respect him, they simply did because he respected himself. I believe that is what he meant.

We teach someone to respect us first by knowing our own worth and value, which shapes the way we act and respond to whatever comes our way and whoever we encounter. I’ve never met a man more consistent and sure of who they were. He was “our rock” and still is. 

People Don’t Owe You Anything

Papa taught us not to go through life expecting things to be done for you or believing that you are “owed” anything. Coming from humble beginnings, Papa worked his entire life and never expected anything to be done for him or handed to him. Not once did I ever hear him complain about the life he was handed. He found joy in simple things and ultimately in Christ. My grandfather understood that every breath on this earth was an undeserved gift of grace and that drove everything he did. 

Other people don’t owe you a thing, and that is a hard truth to believe, but knowing that changes everything! You are much less disappointed when someone doesn’t meet the expectations you have for them. We also better ourselves when we realize we are not owed anything because we see our own capability and potential! This lesson made me slower to complain and helped me not to be disappointed by other people so much.

Be Quick to Listen and Slow to Speak 

My grandfather taught me the value of being quick to listen and slow to speak. This is a lesson I will probably never master the way Papa did. The tongue as we know is one of the hardest things to tame. Maybe it was the way Papa grew up, having been faced with a lot of trials early on in life, that he kept a lot of things to himself. But I also believe my grandfather just walked in a great deal of wisdom and understood the value of being slower to speak and quick to listen. Which made the words he did speak, that much more impactful. 

Be Good

“Be good,” he told me before I drove away from our visits each week. The sweetest and simplest lesson of them all. Papa was a man of few words, but these two words said many things to me. They summed up his way of life and who he was. I think of something John Piper once said – “All heroes are shadows of Christ.” Papa wasn’t perfect and never pretended to be, but he always did his best to be a shadow of Christ. He was our hero and because of him, I understand the character of the Lord so much better. 

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