This I Believe

Ellen - San Diego, California
Entered on May 6, 2007

This I believe, that learning something new every day creates the most contagious energy, and that sharing that knowledge is the greatest gift. But, I can’t claim this weltanschauung as my own; my grandmother taught it to me. Her insatiable zest for knowledge drove her to read unrelentingly, to travel at every opportunity, and to engage strangers in conversation. She was unselfish with her vast knowledge, sharing it excitedly. I particularly loved it when she showed slides from her travels. I remember our family sitting in the dark at her dining room table with the projector’s dusty stream of light shining down the table’s center. Grandma would explain how people in countries around the world had different approaches to doing the same things we do every day: cooking, eating, health care, education, etc… The sounds of our forks on our plates offered a subtle harmony to her point. The passion in her voice was infectious. Her excitement grew with each slide; her descriptions of the pictures were enthralling and vivid. Slowly, the images and her words transformed the dining room into the Acropolis or a market in India. Even the warm summer night air spilling in through the open windows contributed to the metamorphosis. I was no longer looking at pictures of Chinese women with bound feet or of poison-filled rings for kidnapped princesses; I was there, traveling with my grandma.

Though six decades separated us, she and I approached these cultural idiosyncrasies with the same vernal excitement. When the projector was put away and she was tucking me in, we’d wonder together “why” and “how.” Her eyes glowed with life and her hands energetically acted out her words. In the hushed voice of a shared secret, she’d point out to me the things she’d learned on her travels, “that’s the thing I learned that day.”

My grandmother taught me so much. I remember her when I re-encounter a subject we had discussed and, especially when I travel. I honor her by continuing her example of learning something new every day. Grandma showed me that curiosity inspires infectious energy and that it enables full participation in life and community. Perhaps unintentionally, she also taught me that sharing knowledge conveys more than just facts and advice. I hope to see the world through the curious eyes of a 90-year-old little girl, like she did. I hope my future children and grandchildren will too. This, I believe, is the greatest gift I can give.