With schools shut, one of the positives of the present coronavirus pandemic is that it offers opportunities for grandparents to be creative and find new ways of being in touch with their grandchildren.
I have eight grandchildren under the age of sixteen: four live in East London, three live in Vancouver; and one lives in Cairo. Of the grandchildren in Vancouver, two do not count as far as my present initiative is concerned, for one is at college, and the other is in his final year of high school. Similarly, my granddaughter in Cairo does not really count at this stage, because although now a very gifted walker, she is only fourteen months old. So that leaves five grandchildren to rise to the challenges I have set.
As an encouragement to grandparents who have perhaps yet to find ways to build relationships with grandchildren who they cannot currently meet, let me give three examples of the steps I took before Easter:
The first challenge I issued was relatively simple: ‘How many words can you make out of the phrase THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC’.
The second challenge was a little more demanding: ‘List ten things for which you are grateful’ – or ‘Count your blessings’. “The natural temptation”, I wrote, “is to grumble at the present restrictions – but instead of grumbling as a result of focussing on the negatives, we should be grateful by focussing on the positives: e.g. parents who love us, books to read, films to watch etc”. I mentioned the ‘Pollyanna’ game my mother taught me, which involved always looking for the good side of things. “The name is taken from an American novel, Pollyanna, in which Pollyanna is an eleven-year-old orphan who goes to live with her wealthy but stern aunt who does not really want her in her home. When at Christmas time Pollyanna was given a pair of crutches, rather than a doll she had hoped for, she decided to be glad about the crutches, because she did not need them. On another occasion when her aunt tried to punish her niece for being late to dinner by sentencing her to a meal of bread and milk in the kitchen with the servant Nancy, Pollyanna thanks her rapturously because she likes bread and milk, and she likes Nancy.” So I concluded: “Think of TEN things for which you have been grateful since school has shut – and then write them down and send your list to me”.
The third challenge was to complete a quiz on Mark’s account of the death and resurrection of Jesus (I included the GNB text of Mark 14. 43-16.8). Fifteen questions were relatively simple, because with the question I also gave a precise Scripture reference: e.g. “How long did it take for Jesus to die? (Mark 15.25, 34)” and “What did the army officer say when he saw how Jesus died? (Mark 15.39)”. Two required some research on Google: “In which continent is Cyrene? Mark 15.21)” and “Why is crucifixion regarded as so dreadful a death?”. Two required reflection: “Why do you think the political charge against Jesus (Mark 15.2, 26) was so serious?” and “Why do you think the women were so distressed and terrified? (Mark 16.8)”
I am very conscious that I could yet have many weeks in which to find ‘challenges’ to set before my grandchildren. However, if it gives me opportunities to help by occupying my grandchildren and at the same time to share something of my faith, that will be no bad thing.