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Celebrating Grandparents Day – A plea for inter-generational connections


Please join me in celebrating Grandparent’s Day on Sept. 11 to honor the great contributions our elders make to our families and communities.
As you know, children are remarkably perceptive. Their eyes ever observe, their ears ever listening and their minds ever processing the messages they absorb.
Their honesty can catch us off guard and strike at the target of the heart.
If they see us cultivate a happy home atmosphere, they will imitate that attitude for the rest of their lives. The wise parent realizes that every day the building blocks are being laid for the child's future.
So let’s be wise builders and role models to everyone we meet. Our children are watching. Like the adage goes: "Children occasionally do as we say ...
but invariably do as we do."
Connecting the generations through civic engagement and giving the gift of time philanthropy (my term for volunteerism) are certainly opportunities that provide all members of a community a sense of belonging and accomplishment.
I strongly advocate for policies, programs and projects which connect people across cultural and generational divides so we learn from one another and as a result build stronger bonds.

The Wooden Bowl – A parable for all ages
While my advocacy is usually expressed in public policy lingo and statistical data trends for policy-makers and the media, I find that oftentimes the most simple stories teach the most powerful lessons.
Here's a parable originally written in the early 1800s by the Brothers Grimm ... I hope you'll take a few minutes to absorb its message and discover its deeper meaning.
In a time long ago in a faraway place, a frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law and 4-year-old grandson. The old man's hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered.
The family ate together at the table, but the elderly grandfather's shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Food fell off his spoon onto the table. When he grasped the glass, milk spilled.
The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess. "We must do something about grandfather," said the son. "I've had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor."
The husband and wife set a small table in the corner. There, grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner. Since their grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl.
When the family glanced in grandfather's direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food.
The 4-year-old watched it all in silence. One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, "What are you making?"
Just as sweetly, the boy responded, "Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and Mama to eat your food in when I grow up." The 4-year-old went back to work.
The words so struck the parents that they were speechless. Then tears started to stream down their cheeks. Though no word was spoken, both knew what must be done.
That evening the husband took grandfather's hand and gently led him back to the family table.
For the remainder of his days, he ate every meal with the family. And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled or the tablecloth soiled.
I'd like to share a 100 Question Family History Guide. Just send a note to: jack@4gen.org with "Family History" in the subject line.
Jack Levine, the founder of the 4Generations Institute, serves as a Tallahassee-based public policy advocate. He may be reached at jack@4gen.org.