Lutheran Foster Grandparents: A View from the Corner

It was Sunday morning and I began the usual routine:  I stretched in bed; arms flung outward; groaned a bit; leisurely ambled my way to the bathroom.  I scowled at myself in the mirror and completed the tasks at hand.  I got dressed and went off to church.

You know how it is in church everyone has a specified seat.  Therefore, I went to my usual spot – the left back corner.  I believe that finding that familiar seat is a throwback to grade school, when we all sat in alphabetical order or in our reading group.  I wandered over to the table and poured myself a cup of coffee; this is an offering at our contemporary service.  I sat quietly listening to the prelude music as the parishioners sauntered in.  From my corner spot, I have an ideal vantage point – I can see who comes and who goes, who sits here, who sits there, and who sits with whom.  I love to watch people it is so intriguing.

This specific Sunday, I watched a particular family arrive. They quickly stopped to pick up their church bulletin and headed to their “assigned” seats.  I noticed a big smile on the face of the youngest member of the family, as he yanked to break away from his mother’s hand.  I watched, this young man connect eyeball to eyeball with a woman already seated in the congregation.  The boy made a beeline right over to this woman with open arms and gave her a big hug.  She immediately smiled and graciously returned the hug.  I thought to myself, oh how nice that is.  The woman must be a relative, or a former neighbor, someone respected.

The service commenced and I believe it was during the sermon, that this “hugged” women turned her head and I quickly recognized her as a Foster Grandparent.  It was Grandma Joann sitting there in front of me.  That young man must be a relative to her.

Church concluded and everyone exited the church in the usual mass huddle.

I came to be side–by-side with Grandma Joann, so I asked her, “Was that handsome young lad you were hugging a relative of yours?”

“No”, she answered with a grin.  “That’s one of children that I worked with at school several years ago.”

I remarked to Grandma as we parted on the church steps, “It’s truly special that he remembers and greets you.”

Joann and I parted each with a smile on our face.

I kept finding myself thinking about and returning to this encounter.  It made me realize how consistently kids really do remember their Foster Grandparents.  Foster Grandparents really do make a lasting impression on their assigned children.  They do leave a lasting legacy with their children.  It seemed so overwhelmingly evident just observing this unexpected meeting.

I am a proud Project Director of Lutheran Foster Grandparent Program serving the region of Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, and Allegany counties in Southwestern New York State.  Our project recruits, places, and manages volunteers to nurture one-on-one relationships with children in need of extra help.  Foster Grandparent volunteers work under the guidance and tutelage of a teacher or site supervisor.  They are mature adults (over the age of 55), of low-to-moderate income and have a desire to serve in their community by helping children to be successful in school.  These Grandparents are the kindest people I know.

As the Project Director, I see Assignment Plans/Job Descriptions are completed and I tally all the performance measures and record the children’s progress.  My data and reports affirm that wonderful things are accomplishmented when there is a “constant adult in a child’s life” or fantastic things happen when there is an “intergenerational approach to learning”.  All the facts, statistics, or measurements do not truly make me realize the merits of our program until I observed the joy on the faces of the young man and the Foster Grandma from his past as they embraced in church.  Foster Grandparent nurture a legacy for learning.   To be part of this wonderful ministry, I am blessed.