The Power of Ancient People

One of my friends lives in a two-family house with her parents' half on the other side of a wall, a set-up that's fairly typical here in New England. When her teen sons used to come home after school, they'd ask, "What's for dinner?" If the answer wasn't to their liking, they'd pop next door to see what Grandma was cooking. Usually, my friend tells me, the food over there was better, the welcome more unconditional, the rules not as stiff, and the ambience twice as relaxing after a hard day of high school. Usually, they stayed next door.

My own parents are all the way on the other coast, but my seventy-something immigrant mother has mastered the art of instant messaging so that she and Dad can chat with our boys at least once or twice a day -- always at my sons' initiative, because one of their greatest delights is to imagine my parents using their mad one-fingered typing skills to send a blessing through cyber-space. "WAT R U COOKING 4 DINNER?" is a standard (albeit wistful, since they can't benefit so many miles away) question the boys use to start a cross-generational cyber conversation.

I was reminded on Mother's Day of the power of ancient people in proclaiming life-changing grace to young men and women when the boys took me to see Young@Heart, a magnificent film chronicling six weeks in the life of a senior choir. My favorite scene took place in a prison, where our valiant protagonists belted out a poignant, slow rendition of Bob Dylan's Forever Young to a group of young men who were already reaping the consequences of past mistakes. Listen to a part of the blessing those prisoners heard:
May God bless and keep you always,
May your wishes all come true,
May you always do for others
And let others do for you.
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung,
May you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.
As the old people sang, young faces softened and grew still with the intensity of listening and receiving. Why? For two reasons, I think. First, because the kindness of God leads to repentance, and second, because the messenger matters just as much as the message. A grizzled messenger who has lived and suffered many decades can speak a blessing with power that we middle-aged folks have yet to acquire. But our time is coming, sooner than we realize. And that's good news, because I'm often reminded by my parents that the real reason to have kids is to delight in the grandchildren.

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