Caring Across the Generations

by Pastor Heath Howe, Family Ministries

My mother visited us recently, and as she left I found myself thinking, as I always do, "I wish she lived next door." In truth, I am delighted that my parents have created the life they have in Arizona. It fits them beautifully. I have learned a good deal from them from the choices they have made. "Never say never." "Live the life you want." "Young. Old. They are just words." These are just a few slogans that suit my parents and are lessons for me. Their living authentically empowers me to continue to do the same. I pray I am passing that along to Sophie and Eli.

However, our collective authentic living did not result in our living in the same town. We do not share weekly Sunday dinners. I cannot run over to help Mom with a chore or task. We skype and call a good deal, and I send videos to my dad of Eli's baseball games and Sophie's dances. It works for us, and I am finding we are not alone. Many families these days live far away from one another.

Thank God we have the church. I say this because it is at Holy Comforter that my children have found, sometimes on their own, "adopted local grandparents or aunts and uncles." These adults have called them on their birthdays, driven them to church on Sunday mornings when needed, or just engaged in a caring conversation. Such relationships have enriched my children's lives. The circle of God's love has expanded and they now have even more adults teaching and caring for them. They in return have even more people to love and care for themselves. The giving and receiving of God's love happens each time they meet. What a gift.

Noticing the powerful relationships built when generational lines are crossed is part of why we have decided to create a new ministry at Holy Comforter, Caring Across the Generations. In this ministry we hope to provide opportunities for young families to partner with older parishioners and build a relationship that benefits all. We envision these relationships happening in a couple of ways. First, a family may choose to be paired with a senior parishioner and together decide how they might connect. This kind of ministry has been successful in other parishes. Rosie McDonel shared her mother's experience with me. Rosie remembers,

"Mother was alone and none of her three children lived near at the time so a younger couple and their two children chose mother to be their ‘grandmother' person...they visited her weekly-or perhaps bi-weekly. She played games with them and they shared all their school and church school activities with her. I think they may have also brought over a take-out dinner to share with her on occasion...mother didn't drive after a stroke limited her ability to do so and this family took her to all the church functions that included children-their plays and programs of all sorts. When my mother was in a nursing home the last 3 years of her life, they would take picnics over to the nursing home and wheel her out to the picnic table and spend a couple of hours with her...They developed a remarkable relationship, and I know my mother felt like they were also ‘family' to her. They were incredibly caring and were vital to her life in so many ways."

In Rosie's case her mother clearly benefitted from the relationship created, and I am sure the family who knew Rosie's mom would say they did as well. One CHC mom came and asked for an opportunity for this sort of relationship to be created for her family. Like me, her parents live in another town, but she and her husband would like to be available for someone else who is local. She explained,

"We would like to help out with any household chores or take them on a Sunday afternoon drive or whatever...Plus, it is good for my children to give back. This is a great way for their world to expand. We hope the church could help us make this connection."

Second, a few young families may choose to gather together and travel as a group to a local assisted living facility and meet with some of our parishioners who live there. At these gatherings the group might engage in a craft, share a snack, make Valentines, or simply engage in caring conversations. As in the first case, all benefit. The love of God is spread, service offered, and wisdom shared.

There are already CHC members who have expressed interest in this ministry. We are very much at the mustard seed stage now. If you are interested or know someone who might be please let me or Father Hull know. Caring conversations and service are two keys to pass along our faith from one generation to the next. It is relationships that last and keep faith moving more than anything else it seems. The Church is not a building but the people, all the people from rattles to wrinkles connecting and loving each other.