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Elders Giving Good Life Advice

Enjoy these elders’ perspectives as they give life advice on the essential elements of how to be happy. Be encouraged to conduct your own interview with an elderly relative.

When you’re caught in traffic, buried by work, or overwhelmed by family responsibilities, it’s difficult to maintain a broad sense of perspective. But it’s at those times that some advice from your elders — folks who’ve been there before, like the ones listed below — can come in handy.

Each of these nuggets of wisdom came from a conversation held during the Great Thanksgiving Listen, an annual project led by TED Prize winner Dave Isay and his StoryCorps team that asks individuals to interview an older relative or friend in the United States over the Thanksgiving weekend. By taking part, you could learn new things about your family or receive a new perspective on historical events, all while ensuring that your loved one’s narrative is preserved in the Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center’s StoryCorps Archive. And you never know, you might pick up some helpful advice that will help you get through a difficult situation.

Difficult Times Will Pass

Arden Fleming, 15, considers Agneta Vulliet, her grandma, to be her “greatest role model.” Vulliet grew raised in New York City, the daughter of French immigrants, and says she first learned about freedom in boarding school. Vulliet dropped out of school before graduating to marry and went to night school to finish her high school diploma while raising two children. In college, she majored in painting, and a professor was pleased by her drive and suggested her for a scholarship. Fleming approached her grandma for advice near the end of their interview, which took place in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, in October 2017.

“Keep in mind that your 20s are a tumultuous time, but it gets better,” Vulliet says. “At that age, you have so many expectations, so many hopes to achieve, and there’s a lot of concern about how it will all come together.” It’s easy to get consumed with how difficult things appear to be.” “Growing up is hard, but like the weather, the sky will eventually clear, and things will be better — every time you hit the enormous storms that feel like they’re going to take you down, hold on to that.”

Take Inspiration From Everyone

When Kashou inquired who had had the greatest impact on him, Janz mentioned someone closer to home. Janz recalls that a child named Eddy “helped me see a little bit about what life is all about.” He’d written about Eddy, a 10-year-old whose leg had been amputated due to cancer. He recalls that “no matter what happened to him, he never gave up.” “When I contacted Eddy at home, the phone kept ringing and ringing. He eventually took up the phone. ‘Eddy,’ I said. I was about to hang up when the phone rang. ‘What were you doing?’ ‘Bill, I was in another room,’ he explained. I crept to the phone because my crutches were nowhere to be found.’ Janz finds himself reminiscing about that chat on a regular basis. Janz stated, “He was only a young man, but he was teaching an elderly man never to lose up.” “I have a tendency to give up and do something else, and [he] reminds me not to do that.”

You Should Enjoy Your Job

Bennie Stewart, 80, received his first job when he was 7 years old, running errands for his neighbors in exchange for chicken eggs. He talked about his multiple professions in a 2015 interview with grandaughter Vanyce Grant, 17, in Chicago. Stewart worked in 115-degree temperatures for $3 a day, bused dishes, cleaned buildings as a janitor, sold insurance, and eventually found his calling as a social worker and, subsequently, a preacher.

Grant inquired about his grandfather’s path to these many careers. “I enjoy conversing with people. I can communicate and grasp information quickly. I’ve always been able to listen to instructions and understand them quickly.” What has he taken away from his professional experience? “It taught me that I can have my own business, pay for my family, and get some of the things that I couldn’t before,” he adds.

These themes recur in an interview Torri Noakes, 16, had with her grandma Evelyn Trouser, 59, in Flint, Michigan, in 2016. Trouser worked at car plants as a line worker and then as a welder. “Learn to take care of yourself, my advice to everyone in my family.” “Don’t rely on anyone to provide you anything,” Trouser advises. She disproved the misconception that her jobs were monotonous. “I used to look forward to going to work,” she explained. “It’s the people you work with that determine if a job is enjoyable or not. It’s the people you’re with, in my opinion, that make things distinct.”

Look for Mentors That Will Guide and Challenge You

Allen Ebert, 73, talked about his working days. When Ebert was younger, he worked as a welder in the auto industry, and he credits the experience with helping him succeed in medical school. “If you know how something works, you’ll know what to look for and how to fix it when it breaks,” he said. “Even the human body is a machine.”

When Ebert told his grandson about his experiences as a doctor, he emphasized the need to find mentors. “What you’re doing at school right now is learning from individuals who know something you don’t.” “Keep doing that for the rest of your life,” he advises.

You should look for mentors outside of your bosses and teachers. “Just form relationships with individuals you can observe, even from afar, and see how they do things,” Ebert advises. “The way I see it, we probably make 95 percent good decisions in life and approximately 5% bad decisions.”

Make the Most of What You Have

Many individuals utilize the Great Thanksgiving Listen to inquire about family recipes, according to StoryCorps. They get a bit of family history as well as life wisdom, in addition to step-by-step instructions.

Some of the stories show one of the keys to living a fulfilling life: knowing how to make the most of what you have. Kiefer Inson, 28, discussed his grandma Patricia Smith’s signature tuna noodle casserole cooked with canned tuna with his grandmother Patricia Smith, 80. “When I was 18, I was married with a child and didn’t have a job outside the house, so I’d go to the library, bring home cookbooks, and test the recipes,” Smith explains. “We were on a shoestring budget at the time.” I learned to cook a variety of things with a pound of fish that cost 69 cents.” Jaxton Bloemhard, 16, talked about Ukrainian pierogies with his mother, Bethany Bloemhard, 38. She described how her grandmother would make hundreds of dollars at a time. Bethany Bloemhard adds, “She’d tell stories about how they kept the Ukrainian people alive.” “The Ukrainians cultivated potatoes like nobody’s business, and you could make dough with flour, water, and a little oil.”

Other stories emphasize the importance of persevering until you succeed. June Maggard, 87, talked to her granddaughter Emily Sprouse, 33, about her 30-year-old recipe book. “People say they can’t bake bread or biscuits or anything,” Maggard says, “but all you have to do is get the feel.” “It comes from doing.”

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