Spiritual leaders answer on grandparents

 Editor’s note: “Spiritual leaders answer” is a weekly column inviting Kaua‘i’s religious and spiritual leaders to share their doctrine’s perspective on a suggested subject. Every Friday a topic is printed inviting a response. Submissions are edited for content and length. Thoughts or suggestions for future topics are always welcome. Next week’s topic is salvation. The topic at the end of the column is for the following week.

Pastor Wayne Patton

Anahola Baptist Church

The bond between a child and a grandparent is the purest, least psychologically complicated form of human love. Grandparents can offer an emotional safety net when parents falter. They pass on traditions in the form of stories, songs, games, skills and crafts. Grandparents have another ingredient that parents often lack — time. What many grandchildren appreciate most is the relaxed rhythm of life at Grandma’s and Grandpa’s.

How can grandparents use their grand positions to the best advantage? Proverbs 17:6 says that grandchildren are a crown to the aged. There are four tools grandparents can use for polishing the crown.

The first is prudence. Be prudent about interfering, for new mothers often face unexpected stress over how to raise the children. The reason? Grandparents sometimes feel inclined to give more advice than the parents want at the very time new parents are insecure in their new role. It takes a little time for grandparents to find the right balance, learning to be involved without interfering.

The second is presence. It is vital for grandparents to be as accessible as possible. Grandparents need to spend time with grandchildren, make their homes and schedules open and their houses user-friendly for youngsters. Grandparents need to talk to grandchildren, tell them stories and read them Scripture. Charles Spurgeon, the famous Victorian-era preacher, credited his grandfather with molding his life, especially through stories. In our mobile society, many people do not live near their grandchildren. But a week here or there, a vacation, a stream of letters, regular phone calls and skyping can help fill the gap.

The third is provision. Grandparents can help provide materially for their grandchildren — just a little bit here and there for clothing, books, toys, tools for a hobby or seed money for college. Many young families are financially stressed. A few extras along the way by loving grandparents can make a big difference.

Finally, the fourth is prayer. Grandparents can give their grandchildren a legacy of prayer. Samuel said to the Israelites, “God forbid that I should sin against heaven by failing to pray for you.” Often, grandparents have more time for prayer and Bible reading than anyone else.

So, prudence, presence, provision, prayer — and maybe just a dash of patience — are powerful tools for crown-polishing. For children’s children are a crown to the aged, and those who realize that are the grandest people of all.

Rev. Dr. Nani Hill

Beloved are the kupuna [grandparents] of Kilohana. They hold the cords of history, spiritual and cultural values and language that lash three generations of their families together. They pass on their significant knowledge and wise ways of life to their children and grandchildren. They have walked the extremely narrow and dense winding trails of Koke‘e bruised and scarred by crisis, violent trauma and tribulations. They have reached the highest peak of Wai‘ale‘ale only to experience glorious hope in praise of God.

Spirituality is deeply embedded in the heart of the kupuna’s family life. Spirituality is their steadfast resiliency. It is the ultimate way in which they cope with adversity and the way in which pain and suffering is experienced. It is the way they embrace God’s spirit of aloha that instills faith and hope.

The kupuna recognize that their family is a gift from God and faithful prayer upholds the power and cohesion of their family. The power of prayer is as far reaching as the universe. They know that their conversations with God will strengthen them in the midst of unfavorable circumstances.

Kaula, the village prophet, is a highly respected member of the kupuna’s family. Kaula enriches and engages the spiritual life of God’s family. Often Kaula is called upon by the kupuna of one family to facilitate a family rite of passage — infant baptism. The kupuna know that baptism for their grandchild has profound implications not only for that child’s life but also for their family. The life ceremony is where their grandchild is received and blessed with the forgiveness of sins through God the Father, God the Son and the Holy Ghost. The kupuna’s endless delight is that their grandchild is under God’s continuing care that will sustain the child’s sense of community and the world. 

“If a widow has children or grandchildren, they should first learn their religious duty to their own family … for this is pleasing in God’s sight” (1 Tim. 5:4).

Rev. James Fung

Lihu‘e Christian Church

Grandparents serve an all-important role in the life of our society. Because of their experience, wisdom acquired over the years, their view of life seen though the interpretive lens of a broader perspective that comes with the passage of time — they provide an invaluable resource. 

I remember, years ago, as my grandmother told me how she lived through two world wars, the Great Depression, two failed marriages and numerous health issues. As a single parent with three young children, she managed to provide a home for them, to make sure that they received a good education, and that they worked to build a strong foundation of faith in God. She told me that she had learned that no matter how bad you thought things were, God would get you through. She shared this with me when I was facing what I imagined to be a major problem. She said, “If God got me through all of this, do you think that God might be able to get you through your challenges as well?”

Many of our grandparents stand out as heroic role models. They grew up in families where there wasn’t much money for luxuries or even what we would see as bare necessities. But they made the most of their situations, worked hard and sacrificed that their children and children’s children would have better lives and opportunities that they only dared to dream of. 

And they modeled their faith, their belief that God would be there for them, granting them strength beyond their own and blessing them as they placed their trust in God.

Baha’is of Kaua‘i

“It takes a village to raise a child” is a Nigerian proverb made famous by Hillary Clinton’s book of a similar title. The proverb gives the entire community responsibility for the well-being of each child. Many cultures in the Pacific share this value as reflected in the Hawaiian concept of ‘ohana. Ideally, children and the elderly are surrounded by the security of their extended family, and grandparents re-experience the joys of parenthood without the fiscal and material responsibilities. All of the love and happy memories the senior family members have of their children are relived and shared with the next generation. Skills and wisdom learned throughout a long life guide the young and the kupuna are appreciated and respected for their contributions and knowledge.

The grandparents also enjoy the security of their ohana knowing that in their latter years they will not be alone. Grandparenthood is a reward bestowed upon them by their offspring for their many years of sacrifice as parents.

Unfortunately, society has changed and its demands are getting greater. Parents are having a more difficult time making a living. The number of single-parents has escalated. Drugs and alcohol have taken their toll on family life and responsible parenting. Therefore, many grandparents are now having to take on the role of primary caretakers for their grandchildren and the elderly no longer have the security of a devoted family to assure their comfort in their old age. 

Modern times have brought other changes. In most cultures age begot respect and privileges. However, as cultural values give way to materialism, the elders are seen as weak and burdensome. Youthfulness, fashion trends, fads and self-gratification have taken the place of responsibility, duty and loyalty.

This is contrary to the Baha’i teachings. The Baha’i Faith embraces the concept of ohana and makes it the responsibility of the extended family, including grandparents, and the community to educate and protect the well-being of children. Though modern society often places adult children and their parents on equal footing, Baha’is carry a lifelong duty to demonstrate filial respect and appreciation for the work and sacrifices of their parents. When children see how their parents honor their grandparents, the younger generation will learn from their example.

The following are quotes from the Baha’i writings describing what grandparents can expect from their own children and grandchildren in their golden years.

“It is seemly that the servant should, after each prayer, supplicate God to bestow mercy and forgiveness upon his parents. Thereupon God’s call will be raised: ‘Thousand upon thousand of what thou hast asked for thy parents shall be thy recompense!’ Blessed is he who remembereth his parents when communing with God. There is, verily, no God but Him, the Mighty, the Well-Beloved.”

“There are also certain sacred duties on children toward parents, which duties are written in the Book of God, as belonging to God. The (children’s) prosperity in this world and the Kingdom depends upon the good pleasure of parents, and without this they will be in manifest loss.”

“The Guardian of the Baha’i Fatith, Shoghi Effendi, in his remarks … about parents’ and children’s … relations in America, meant that there is a tendency in that country for children to be too independent of the wishes of their parents and lacking in the respect due to them.”

Lama Tashi Dundrup

Kaua‘i Dharma Center

The Buddha Shakyamuni preached in many of his sutras that all beings at one time or another were one’s mother. Spiritually, this makes all beings one’s grandparents. This becomes the motivation of respecting and cherishing these infinite sentient beings with unconditional love and altruistic compassion. They are our motivation for spiritual practice. We must alleviate their pain and suffering, remove them from these unfavorable situations and guide them to realize their true nature as beings of light and positive energy or Buddhas. This universe is timeless and infinite with no boundaries. Sentient beings are infinite in number. Our mind and heart has no limits. Put these three all together in daily meditation and spiritual practice, and dedicate all of the results to our grandparents. This will make them happy.  

Topic for two weeks from today

• Will you speak to us on the ocean?

• Spiritual leaders are invited to e-mail responses of three to five paragraphs to afrainier@ thegardenisland.com.

• Deadline: 5 p.m. Tuesday.

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