Seeing Things Differently

A few weeks ago, I took two of my grandchildren on a short hike at the Finley Wildlife Refuge near Corvallis. Molly and Roland were excited about the prospect of hiking with Grandpa and, as we began our half-hour drive, kept asking when we would be arriving at our destination. We eventually made it to the mile-long “Woodpecker Trail” and traveled about 100 yards before Molly, aged 5, decided the weather was too hot and wanted to return to the air conditioned car. I convinced her it would be cooler when we reached the shade offered by an oak grove and, to her credit, she stayed with me.

Over the course of the hike, both Roland and Molly managed to be bored, hot, and tired in quick succession. They perked up when we found some trees they could climb and play on with only minimal risk to life and limb. Tree climbing made the whole adventure fun for awhile, but we eventually decided to continue on to the car, where Roland made it clear he desperately needed to catch a grasshopper before we could head for home. I wasn’t optimistic we could accomplish this goal and was a little surprised when Roland managed to capture one of the unwary creatures. We didn’t have a container; so Roland held the grasshopper in his hands for the first mile or so of our return until the bug managed to get free. I had to pull the car over and wait while Roland tried to catch the grasshopper again. I’m not sure what happened to it, except to say that we never saw it again.

The trip home became a series of requests from Roland to stop so that he could search some more and fights with Molly over just about anything kids can fight about. I was relieved to reach our driveway, believing that the children would probably never want to go hiking with Grandpa again.

Molly and Roland went home with their parents, and I didn’t see them again until a few days ago. Their mother told me that the hike was all they talked about over the weeks that followed, and she wanted to know when I would be taking them out again. I don’t know exactly when that will be, but I’m sure we’ll get in some more hikes before the end of summer.

We tend to think that parents and grandparents have an obligation to pass along our knowledge and wisdom to succeeding generations. I think the opposite is true. My grandchildren regularly remind me of things I’d forgotten or teach me stuff I never knew. The most recent hiking experience reminded me that even though we may complain about the discomforts of doing difficult things, what really matters is the whole experience. I also learned that my perception of how others feel about things can be completely wrong. The grandchildren seemed to quickly forget the heat, the fights, and the lost grasshopper, while remembering the tree climbing and the accomplishment of completing a hike with their grandfather.

I think I can apply these lessons to a lot of what I do at the City of Albany. At the very least, I will be slower to draw conclusions from my own perceptions and quicker to ask others what they think.

Roland & Molly climbing a tree