Late this morning, I sat in our 15-passenger-van surrounded by most of our twelve children in the parking lot of a memory-care facility in Lawrence, Kansas. Mr. Beaver and a couple of the kids were taking Grandma back to her apartment following a breakfast at a restaurant. While we waited, a news story on the radio rang true while leaving me bemused at its ironic timing.
The newscaster said that some are renaming the "Baby-Boomer" generation. Apparently, Baby-Boomers are now being dubbed, "The Sandwich Generation". This is because so many of us are involved in the care of what the story called "veteran" parents, while still parenting children of their own. In some cases those in the "Sandwich Generation" are also now grandparents themselves. Mr. Beaver and I are among those who fall in this camp.
The newscaster implied that a real stretching takes place for those seeking to meet the needs of generations on both sides of their own. Even with just the short taste we've had of being involved in Grandma's care since the death of her beloved sister and caregiver in January, we'd have to agree that it is easy to feel like a rubber band as you're pulled in opposing directions by the needs of those, both older and younger, whom you love and want to serve.
The news story failed to mention any help for those sandwiched by the very real needs of their parents and their children. But as I listened, my mind was recalling words from the Bible that were enough to encourage me. First, I know Jesus wants Mr. Beaver and I to spend our lives in service of others. Our leisure wasn't what our Savior listed as His top priority for our lives in this season. While Jesus was walking the earth, He told His followers, "Even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve." (Mark 10:45 NASB) His life was about service to others, and we're to follow in His footsteps.
Second, God provides just what is needed to live selflessly: grace. While the context of this next verse was a gift of money the church in one city had promised those struggling in another location, I believe the principle behind the passage also applies to our use of time:
"Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed." (2 Corinthians 9:7,8)Did you see how many versions of the word "all" are captured in God's promise to His people when they set out to serve others? Grace, grace and more grace. The very power of God will be at work in us as we do His Kingdom work here on earth in His stead. Wow! All we have to do is cry out for help and He'll enable. I find that so reassuring.
Finally, the news story I heard just after breakfast never mentioned the reward of being sandwiched. I believe you can see it in the picture above. Mr. Beaver and I are well aware that we're blessed to watch as something fleeting-but-oh-so precious is taking place--the tender affection of grandparents and grandchildren who've had years to build deep relationships. Our kiddos adore their grandparents, and that feeling is more than mutual. What a privilege to witness the depth of this love! The happiness Grandma exhibits when surrounded by her grandchildren makes the tiring road trips we're trying to make monthly worth the weekends they take. The sense of belonging and rooted-ness that Grandma's love gives our children will keep us heading south to Kansas over and over. We're weary around the edges, it's true, but the reward of witnessing mutual multi-generational devotion goes a long way to energize.
So we have Jesus' command to love through service, His promise of grace to make this possible and His kind reward in watching a bit of heaven on earth in the form of a grandparent-grandchild love exchange. Perhaps its not so bad being sandwiched after all.