The Wisdom of Experience
Founded in the UK by the charity Age Concern, Grandparent’s Day has been celebrated on the first Sunday in October since 2008. It gives us a chance to reflect on the love and achievements of the older generation.
Earlier this year, Pope Francis released a series of homilies on the elderly (Cathfamily). Each one explores a theme based on a significant figure in the scriptures, including Naomi, Joachim and Anne, Simeon and Anna among others. Even Noah gets a mention! But we don’t have to go back to the time of the scriptures to experience the gift of the elderly in our community. This is especially so for senior couples – those who have been married for many decades and have weathered the storms of life together. In an age where divorce is common, long-married couples are precious jewels. The witness of their enduring love is like a ray of hope refracting into their community.
We can be quick to dismiss such couples as the simple result of a less complicated world, as if temptation and setbacks are unique to our age. Yet these couples may have lived through economic hardship, migration, social change, sickness and tragedy as much as any generation. Seniors make wonderful mentors to younger couples in challenging situations. They provide relatable advice based on their own tribulations and relationship victories. They testify to the power of God’s grace in restoring and healing strained relationships.
Being able to provide practical relief to parents is a special gift of grandparents. They are not simply disinterested babysitters. They are invested in the wellbeing of their grandchildren second only to the parents. They are also uniquely placed to promote unity and collaboration in the extended family. They are frequently the initiators of extended family gatherings, reaching out to distant relatives and working to ensure all are included. Often, for their sake, warring siblings and cousins will reconcile. Sometimes, it is only after their death that families realise that these matriarchs and patriarchs were an anchor that stabilised family relationships.
It has been said that the first half of life is spent building and acquiring assets while the second half is distributing them. That’s not only true of our material assets, but also of our personal qualities and spiritual gifts. Senior citizens are a treasure trove for the community. Their witness, wisdom and reconciling influence bless the generations that follow.
What are your favourite memories of your grandparents when you were younger? How have they been an influence on you?
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