They didn't complain or feel sorry for themselves. They were grateful for life's simple pleasures. In my grandmother's case, it was a cup of orange-spiced tea every evening; in my mother's, two chocolate mint cookies from the freezer every day. Neither woman held a grudge or had an unkind word to say about anyone. But most importantly, they were generous.
Both women gave away most of what they owned before they died. Neither owned much of value, no homes or property, just a few pieces of jewelry, some family china and crystal. But they loved to parcel out their belongings: a pearl necklace on a birthday, a treasured book or old family photos for Christmas, a crocheted tablecloth for a wedding or a blanket on the birth of a grandchild.
I've made lots of resolutions to help myself grow old with grace: eat less, move more, memorize 100 poems, relearn algebra and geometry. But I think the best thing I could do is try my best to follow my grandmother's and my mother's example. Perhaps it wasn't their accessorized outfits and coifed hair that made them seem so young, but the smiles on their faces, smiles earned by being kind and giving to others.
Linda Chavez is the author of "An Unlikely Conservative: The Transformation of an Ex-Liberal." To find out more about Linda Chavez, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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