So the Lord said to Moses, “Gather for me seventy of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them, bring them to the tent of meeting, and have them take their place there with you. I will come down and talk with you there, and I will take some of the spirit that is on you and put it on them; and they shall bear the burden of the people along with you so that that you will not bear it all by yourself. (Numbers 11: 16-17 NRSV)
A young mother and father were in the grocery store, in the cashier’s line next to mine. The father was desperately trying to calm their little boy whose cries were growing louder by the moment. The mother had that familiar wearied look of young mothers — little sleep and much worry. I looked from father to mother to child and I knew who was in control — that child! The mother and the father had long given up trying to soothe the child — they were now just trying their best to get through the grocery line and get out of dodge! Those around were quite sympathetic — but not helpful!
As the boy’s cries grew louder and more frantic, up walked an elderly man. “Grandpa!” Instantly, squeals of delight. The Grandfather gathered the boy up into his arms, “I know exactly what you need.” He put the boy in a stroller and headed for the parking lot. I think I actually saw relief cross the mother’s face for a hot moment before she turned her attention to haggling with the cashier about a grocery item whose discounted price was not registering.
Anxious to see just what Grandpa’s remedy was, I hurried through my own purchases so that I could get to the parking lot as well. As I was packing my groceries, I spotted the mother and father packing their own groceries in their car. The Grandfather and boy were no where to be found. I looked all around the parking lot, growing more curious by the minute. And then I spotted them — the father had strolled up and down the street and was talking a mile a minute. As they got closer to the car, I could see that the boy was sound asleep, contented by the Grandfather’s voice, the motion of the stroller, and the briskness of the air.
I’m sure that in that moment, I saw something that these parents in their weariness and focus on the struggles of the moment might have missed altogether — that is the sheer blessing of the availability and the spirit of the Grandfather.
Many children grow up without the benefit of extended family. Our society is so disconnected. But even if there are cousins and aunts around, there really is a dearth of connected grandparents – people who know when to show up in a child’s life with the spirit of liberty.
The Lord told Moses to find some elders. God’s plan was to share some of Moses’ spirit with these elders. Moses had the spirit of Liberty, the spirit of Freedom. He had the spirit of courage. The Lord granted these elders this spirit. Coupled with their life experience, they were prepared to help Moses bear the burden of the people.
Granted, there are some elderly people that you don’t want anywhere near children! They are cantankerous and mean-spirited, for sure. But there are many, many more who have reflected on their life experiences, have owned the spirit of liberty and freedom, and have much to offer to another generation.
If the children in your life, in your care, don’t have a grandparent — find one for them.
One reply on “The Blessing of Elders who Bear the Burden of the People”
This is wonderful, Em. You have such insight. And you know how to tell a story – you must be a preacher. 🙂