Our Opinion: Honor your elders


Grandparents have a special, honored place in every family, in every community and in society as a whole -- or at least they should anyway.

Grandparents have many important roles. They are caregivers, offering free babysitting services so parents can save their money to ensure a better life and future for their children. In some unfortunate cases when parents abandon their responsibilities it is the grandparents who step up to care for the next generation.

Grandparents have a wealth of knowledge and wisdom about life, the family's heritage and the "good ole days." They can offer sage advice to grandchildren who may feel more comfortable confiding in or asking advice from non-judgmental grandparents than their own mother or father.

"Grandparents have a goldmine store of knowledge," wrote Jason Ladock in a recent issue of Parenting magazine. "Not all grandparents may possess bookish knowledge, but they have a wealth of real life experiences and information to share, which is not taught in any of the schools out there."

What's more, he continued, "They serve as a great link between the past, present and the future. They introduce their kids to the past traditions, get involved with them in the present and help them shape their future."

They also are entrusted with the responsibility of keeping the family together (i.e. through holiday gatherings) so that children can stay connected to their cousins, aunts, uncles and other extended family, thus strengthening their connection to their own roots and heritage.

Most importantly, for grandchildren at least, is that grandparents don't have to be as strict with the rules as parents.

"Your grandparents don't have to worry about what happens if you have too much sugar, or don't have to worry about giving you extra money to go see a movie," wrote Cody Hodge in Parenthood360.com. "They aren't there to raise you, they are there to spoil you, and make up for the times when mom and dad decide that you can't have anymore candy. There are usually no bedtimes, and when you stay with them you can do just about whatever you want."

Given all of these important contributions that grandparents make, it's only fitting that there be a special day set aside each year to recognize their inherent value. So take note, National Grandparents Day is this Sunday, Sept. 7.

The impetus for a National Grandparents Day originated with Marian McQuade, a housewife in Fayette County, W.V. Her primary motivation was to champion the cause of lonely elderly in nursing homes, according to www.grandparents-day.com. She also hoped to persuade grandchildren to tap the wisdom and heritage their grandparents could provide. President Jimmy Carter, in 1978, proclaimed that National Grandparents Day would be celebrated every year on the first Sunday after Labor Day -- September was chosen for the holiday to signify the "autumn years" of life.

The website offers a whole slew of suggestions on how to celebrate the day and honor the senior members of our families and our communities. This includes everything from private gatherings to special events organized by schools, churches and senior organizations. Activities to enhance "intergenerational interaction" can include board games which are easily played by young and old alike, a story-telling time that allows grandparents to relate stories of their past and enlighten children about "the old days," reconstruct a family tree and peruse through old family albums to rediscover one's roots.

"It's a time to discover one's roots and learn patience, understanding and appreciation for the elderly. Grandparents Day is the perfect time to enhance communication between the generations," the website says. "Many times, only grandparents have answers to questions about family histories. When this information is passed down to the grandchildren, everyone can be assured of his heritage being preserved."

The website also emphasizes that along with our own grandparents, we should not forget shut-ins and those in nursing homes who are unable to be with their families or have no families. Every effort must be made to include these people in the mainstream through cards, community projects and visitation at times other than just holidays.

For everything these seniors have done for our families, our community and our country the least we can do is show them the love, respect and admiration that they deserve.


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