Pope Francis has declared the fourth Sunday in July as World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly. The Sunday was chosen because it will always be close to the feast of Saints Joachim and Anne, Jesus’ maternal grandparents, which we celebrate on July 26. In honor of this day, let’s look at some of the reasons why grandparents are so important.
1. Grandparents can have a great impact on their grandchildren’s lives. Nine out of ten adult grandchildren say their grandparents have influenced their beliefs and value system. As writer David Dayler has said, “Perhaps the most powerful means of transmission of the faith is through the lived experience of those who have traveled the journey before us.”
2. Grandparents provide a sense of security. Although parents are largely responsible for giving their children a sense of security, grandparents can deepen and expand that sense. If children are in trouble, they know they can always run to grandma or grandpa.
3. Grandparents reduce stress. A 2014 study out of Boston College said this: “An emotionally close relationship between grandparents and grandchildren is associated with fewer symptoms of depression for both generations.”
4. Grandparents offer a link to children’s family history and culture. Grandparents often share valuable information with their grandchildren about their family origins, makeup, culture, customs, and faith traditions. The simple stories grandparents tell about the past help give their grandchildren a sense of history and belonging. And it is largely through their grandparents that children first learn that their parents were once children too.
5. Grandparents widen the circle of love for their grandchildren. If children feel loved by their parents, that’s wonderful. But that circle of love is expanded when they realize how much they are also loved by their grandparents. That prepares children for widening their own circle of love especially by forming friendships with others.
6. Parents are great learning-partners. Grandparents are often the best partners for helping their grandchildren discover the wonders of life. I am always amazed at the number of grandparents and grandchildren I see together in the park, at the beach, in science museums, at the zoo, at the botanical gardens, and even at Mass together. (That reminds me of this true story. A little girl went to Mass with her grandparents. She had seldom been at Mass before. When the priest and deacon walked up the aisle in the entrance procession, the little girl turned to her grandpa and whispered, “Which one is God?”)
7. Grandparents are an economic powerhouse. A recent MetLife survey found that grandparents spend an average of $1700 a year on their grandchildren. This money is often used to help pay for child-care, housing, and education. But, of course, grandparents also buy gifts for their grandchildren. What are the two most popular gifts? Clothing and books!
Here are a few more facts about grandparents. In the U.S., over 80 million people are grandparents. That is one-third of the adult population… The majority of grandparents are between the ages of 46-64… Grandchildren help grandparents too. They can boost cognitive performance in older persons, they can help build a stronger immune system in their grandparents, and they give their grandparents an incentive to work for a better future. After all, their grandchildren and great-grandchildren (etc.) will be living in the future we are creating now. And finally, grandchildren can expand grandparents’ knowledge. Many grandparents know, if you’re having a problem with your cellphone or the TV remote, just hand it to your grandchild!
Let’s conclude with a few quotations about grandparents:
“If nothing is going well, call your grandmother.” (Italian proverb)
“Grandfathers are just antique little boys.” (Anonymous)
“Grandparents make the world a little softer, a little kinder, a little warmer.” (Anonymous)
“Sometimes grandmas and grandpas are like grand-angels.” (Lexie Saige)
+ What do you remember most about your own grandparents?
+ If you are a grandparent, what has that experience been like for you?
+ Can you think of any other reasons why grandparents are so important?
PS: I ask your prayers for a retreat I will be facilitating at the St. Cyril Spiritual Center in Danville, PA from July 19-26. This is a blended retreat, both in-person and virtual. Thank you for your support!
I have two music videos today. The first is “In Color” written and sung by country singer Jamey Johnson. This tribute to his grandpa won the award for best country song in 2008. The second video is called “Grandma’s Hands” and was written and sung here by Bill Withers.
“In Color” by Jamey Johnson:
“Grandma’s Hands” by Bill Withers. Withers said this song was “the favorite thing I’ve written.” It tells of his Grandmother Calloway in rural West Virginia who really did look after unwed mothers in her area as well as her own family. I’ve written out the lyrics below the video.
Grandma’s hands clapped in Church on Sunday morning… Grandma’s hands played a tambourine so well….
Grandma’s hands used to issue out a warning. She’d say, “Billy don’t you run so fast… Might fall on a piece of glass… Might be snakes there in the grass…” Grandma’s hands.
Grandma’s hands soothed a local unwed mother… Grandma’s hands used to ache sometimes and swell… Grandma’s hands used to lift her face and tell her. She’d say, “Baby, Grandma understands… That you really love that man… Put yourself in Jesus’ hands.” Grandma’s hands.
Grandma’s hands used to hand me a piece of candy… Grandma’s hands picked me up each time I fell…Grandma’s hands, Boy they really came in handy. She’d say, “Matty, don’t you whip that boy… What you want to spank him for?… He didn’t drop no apple core.”
But I don’t have Grandma anymore… If I get to heaven I’ll look for Grandma’s hands.
+ Once again I invite you to respond to this reflection below. We all enjoy hearing from you!