“We all carry, inside us, people who came before us.”
“He was just like me!” my teenage son, Kaleb, exclaimed as he wandered around the barn. We were visiting my 95-year old grandma in western Pennsylvania. Kaleb had asked if he could look around the barn and grandma said, “It’s all junk down there, but you’re welcome to it.”
The “junk” was tools and supplies that my grandfather had saved over his years of working in coal mines and farming his land. Pap died in 1994 and his barn had stayed mostly undisturbed, though tractors and machinery had been sold off years ago.
Kaleb is one of those kids who has always wanted to figure out how things work. When other kids were smiling and waving at their parents on a carousel, Kaleb was staring straight up at the mechanism that made the horse go up and down. He’s taken over my shed to build a woodworking and metalworking studio. He salvages things and finds ways to build what he needs with those items.
In Pap’s barn, he connected with an ancestor who encountered the world in a similar way. Kaleb marveled at the hand-crank drill press and shelves that Pap had built from salvaged wood and cinder blocks. He wondered aloud about specific things that would have been used in the mines and on railroads. He showed me an ax with a blackened handle and said, his voice filled with quiet reverence, “Look, he made his handles just like I do.”
Pap was reluctant to throw things away. My mom said, “He always said this stuff would be worth something someday.” And yes, some of these old tools have monetary value, but the greater value was in the deepening of my son’s identity as he felt this connection across generations. It was the value of the time we all spent, four generations of family sitting on my grandma’s porch, reminiscing together about my grandfather.
Thank you, Pap, for seeing the worth in these everyday things. I wish you could have spent time with your great-grandson in person. The two of you would have built amazing things.
God of our ancestors, may we find the ways in which we can connect across generations. May we see the worth in our everyday things.