My Grandfathers’ Gifts

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights…” James 1:17 (NKJV)

When my sister and I were eight and ten years old, our maternal grandfather paid for six months of piano lessons for both of us. We were excited.

Our teacher was an older woman from the church we attended. Mrs. Dahle was a kind and encouraging teacher. She and her husband never had children of their own, but it was obvious they loved children. He always had a treat for us at the end of our lesson.

She taught us the basics of reading music and playing the piano with first one hand and then both hands together. Like learning the keyboard of a typewriter or computer, we had to memorize the correct position for our hands so we could keep our eyes on the music, rather than our hands. It was a challenge, but we enjoyed it. Practicing my lesson was not a chore because I wanted to play well.

Even though our formal training ended after those six months, I never quit playing and learning what I could on my own. My church let me play the piano for Sunday school and other youth functions. I’m sure it was painful for the singers at times, and I was embarrassed when I hit some clinkers or messed up the rhythm. But the adults faithfully encouraged me and praised my efforts.

Fifty years have passed and I still play the piano for church services. Grandpa’s generous gift led to a lifetime of musical fulfillment and service for me.

The “gift” from my other Grandpa (Dad’s stepfather) was harmful to my development. He was an emotionally disturbed individual who expressed his affection for his granddaughters inappropriately. Even though it was often in the open, no one reproached him. His “gift” left a legacy of fear, hurt, anger, and shame.

Children are innocent, vulnerable, and impressionable. Adults have a responsibility to encourage, uplift, protect, and give good gifts to those under their influence. It can make all the difference in the world in a child’s life, present and future. I’m grateful for the positive legacy my maternal grandfather and other supportive adults gave to me, and thankfully, I’ve learned that a harmful legacy can also be overcome.

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