People are constantly surprised to find out I don't speak the same language as my abuelita. She was born and raised in Colombia, and I was born and raised in suburban New Jersey. She never learned English because she lives in a community in Queens, NY, that is predominantly Hispanic, and I never learned Spanish, even after years of trying hard to learn it in school.
Despite our language barrier, I have always felt extremely close to my abuelita. I think she's the cutest, most angelic woman in the world. I love her immensely, and as I've gotten older, I've realized how similar we are without being able to have full conversations. Her incredible character and love has made her a favorite among my friends, and I've learned to be a better person because of her. Here are a few of the life lessons she's taught me, without ever having to say a word in English.
1. Find joy in the small things.
My grandmother and I are both made happy pretty easily. Give us something small and cute, and we will love you forever. Her exuberant joy when I gave her a stuffed elephant for Christmas is the same joy I experience when someone gives me a small gift like a PEZ dispenser or a magnet. Tokens of affection should always be appreciated, no matter how small they might seem.
2. Appreciate others
My abuelita constantly thanks people for the smallest things (like getting her tea) and makes everyone feel appreciated. The effect she has on other people's moods is beautiful, and everyone should want to make the people in their lives feel that loved.
3. Spending time with people you love is more important anything else you're doing
Even though I barely understand what's going on during telenovelas, I watch them with my abuelita. She has always watched English TV with me, and each other's company is much more important than understanding the plots of El Señor de los Cielos or How I Met Your Mother.
4. Do nice things for people you love
Like most abuelitas, my grandma really knows how to take care of my family. Whenever she visits, she brings my mom flowers and chocolate, and my brother and I Colombian treats we can't get near our home, like arequipe, empanadas, and pan trenza de queso.
5. Do nice things for people you've never met
My grandmother spends her days raising money for underprivileged children through church bake sales. She takes it VERY seriously and devotes most of her time to charity within her church. She cares so much about helping people she's never met and that's incredibly admirable.
6. Stay silly
At 91 years old, my abuelita knows that you should never take yourself too seriously. While she still doesn't completely understand why we take so many selfies, she has become a fan favorite of everyone following my brother's and my social media accounts.