Book review: ‘God’s Guide for Grandparents’
“God’s Guide for Grandparents.” By Susan M. Erschen. Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor, October 2017. 144 pages. Paperback: $14.95; Kindle: $9.99; Nook: $10.49.
Becoming a grandparent is a blessing from God; as author Susan Erschen reminds us in her new book, “God’s Guide for Grandparents,” it is “the fulfillment of Scripture’s beautiful prayer, “May you …live to see your children’s children” (Ps 128:5–6). For grandparents, the arrival of these little ones is not only a wonder and a joy, it is a sacred opportunity — a call to deepen one’s own faith in order to be able to share that faith more fully with the next generation.
Indeed, that is perhaps the most important thing this book does; it helps grandparents look closely at both what they believe and how they act on those beliefs. Talking about faith is one thing, Erschen notes, but a lived example of that faith shouts more loudly than any words we might say. “If we set our faith up on a shelf, point to it, and tell our grandchildren, ‘This is what you must believe,’ it will inspire them little more than a toy with a dead battery,” she says. “But if they see us living those beliefs, then we are giving them something of value.”
Over the course of 16 chapters, Erschen touches on the various ways our faith informs and inspires our spirituality, which is, she says, another word for “what we do with what we believe.” If the chapter titles look very much like the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit, that’s because basically, that’s what they are. As grandparents, we received these gifts at our Confirmation; now we are given a graced opportunity to see whether we have fully opened them and used them as well as we can.
The author also makes the point that, not only do grandparents share their faith with their grandchildren, they can and should be on the alert for all the ways those same grandchildren teach them. “One virtue I admire in my young grandchildren is acceptance,” Erschen notes in chapter two. “It seems to me they are very accepting of people and situations that we adults may have learned to judge in negative ways.”
She uses as an example her three-year-old granddaughter who had to move to a new preschool right after the Christmas holidays. Worried about how the little girl would handle the transition, she was delighted when the child came home, “bubbling” enthusiastically about the new friend she had made, the one who was so kind and helpful to her. She was so taken with his goodness that she apparently never noticed that this little boy was both mildly handicapped and of a different race. “None of this registered with her,” Erschen continued. “She accepted him and liked him completely for the person he was inside. I thought how wonderful our world would be if we all were as accepting as this three-year-old.”
Ultimately, this is a book about becoming the people we want to inspire our grandchildren to be and, according to the Pew Research Center, there is ample opportunity for that to happen. In 2015 “94 percent of grandparents helped provide some care for their grandchildren — 22 percent provided regular care; 72 percent provided occasional care.” If we succeed in spending that time well, Erschen notes, the pay-off for everyone is rich in many ways.
“Wouldn’t it be the greatest blessing if each of us could have grandchildren … who love us, care for us and feel we have helped make them better people?” Erschen concludes. “By living and sharing the virtues discussed in this book, we just might be able to make that happen. May God bless each and all of us on that journey.”
Susan Erschen, a freelance writer from St. Louis, Mo., frequently addresses such topics as the spirituality of giving, gratitude, living simply and spending time with God. Her articles have appeared in America, (“Next to Godliness: Prayers over The Washing Machine”), The Priest magazine, Our Sunday Visitor, St. Anthony Messenger, and Today’s Catholic Teacher. She is the former director of stewardship education for the Archdiocese of St. Louis. Erschen enjoys spending time with family and volunteering in her parish community.