Do you remember when you learned to ride a bicycle? Do you remember how your Dad or a big brother or your Mom or your Grandpa ran along behind you, with their hand on the back of the seat...steadying you...pushing you along...until you got the rhythm of the pedals and mastered the art of balancing a two-wheeler?
I was thinking of that as I watched Sharon holding Olivia, our 8-month old granddaughter. The two are pretty close. Olivia is a dark-eyed little girl with a sweet, almost shy smile. Who just loves to be held as she falls asleep and then enjoys falling asleep on Grandma. (And Grandma enjoys napping with Olivia on her chest!)
It all got me to thinking about how one of the gifts we give one another is to help the next generation along. We bless them. We put our hand on the back of the seat, or square in the middle of their backs, as they get started in life. Or head into a major, new stage. We encourage them. Help get them started.
Olivia will probably never remember those afternoons when she was held, rocked to sleep, and then cradled as she napped through the afternoon. She'll not remember those words of affection and love whispered in her ears. The games of "How big is Olivia?" (the answer is "SO BIG!") or "Where is Olivia?" (as she pulls a small blanket up over her face and then drops it with a delighted look so she can see you again). None of it may rise to the surface of her conscious mind but it will all be there...helping her move forward...step into the rest of her life.
We help the next generation along.
We dance at the weddings of young people and surround them with our prayers and funny stories as they begin the mysterious journey we call marriage.
Friends gather for a baby shower when someone they know is embarking on the challenging adventure we call parenthood.
And when someone we care about is dying, their bodies wasting away as their souls get ready for God's new thing (thank you, Jesus!), we stop by and visit...tell stories...tell the person how we love them...promise we'll look them up in heaven...and then we go to the funeral. Make small talk. Listen to the words of scripture. Sing a hymn of faith. Offer hugs. Go over to the house and have cold cut sandwiches and dip into the potato salad. We hold the members of the family up with our love. A widow, for example, is surrounded by women who have gone through this loss. They tell her there will be life on the other side of the grief. They tell her they play cards every other Thursday night, and are in a Christian small group on the first Monday of every month, and sometimes like to go to Branson, Missouri or to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.
All along the way, we bless one another. Encourage one another. So a new generation can step courageously into the middle of whatever is next.
The New Testament says we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. That is who we are to one another in this world. A cloud of witnesses, encouraging one another, blessing one another, so we can go on...live...step into the next big thing life has for us.