This little phrase was spoken to me often by my grandmother, Mrs. Wanda Southerland. She was and is known to me as “Gran-Gran.” I’m told that I gave her that name being the oldest grandson and trying to say “grandmother” at her prompting when I was just learning to speak. Gran-Gran taught me to read by encouraging me to take our church bulletin and circling every word I knew. We did the same thing with newspaper ads, etc. She also read to me. I will never forget her reading “Floating Island” to me as a young child. Gran-Gran used to take me, my brothers, and my sister to the library. We’d end up getting the limit of 25 books each. By the time there were four of us, we’d be sitting in her car with 100 books between the four of us. Many of these we would read before getting home from the library. My brother, just under me in the birth order, and I would often stay with my grandparents for a week or two during the summer while the “little kids” remained home with Mama and Daddy. Most every year, Gran-Gran would enroll us in the Summer reading program at the local library.
Gran-Gran used to tell me, “You’re so smart. You’re such a good reader. But you know what? I’d love you even if you were dumb.” Only looking back through adult eyes can I realize the impact that those statements had upon me. First of all, she encouraged me in reading. She set expectations that I was smart and that I would always succeed in life. Yet, she gave me reassurance that her love was not conditional on my performance. Contrast this with children who are constantly belittled or told they will never amount to anything. Whether you encourage a child or belittle a child, it is usually a self-fulfilling prophecy upon that child’s life. I’m so thankful for a grandmother who believed in me and encouraged me in my academic endeavors. I owe my love of reading to this dear lady. She may not have set me down to teach me the deep doctrinal works of Calvin, Spurgeon, Owen, Edwards, Dabney, Pink, Ryle, or Erskine. She may not have read me more modern books by Piper, Packer, or MacArthur. But what she did was to cultivate a love of reading in my life that continues to this day. I, in turn, am striving to pass that same love down to my own children.
Today, Gran-Gran is in her twilight years. Most of the time, she doesn’t recognize me, my wife, or my children. She requires the constant care of my grandfather and some part time helpers to meet her needs. We live too far away for me to check on her on a regular basis, but my father is still local and checks on his mother and father daily.
Gran-Gran, you are a very wise lady. But you know what? I’d love you even if you were dumb.