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A Grandson's Promise

Dr. Wayne Willis sent in this brief story which offers a great lesson for grandparents.

June 03, 2015 | 09:51 AM

Bryan adored his grandmother. He called her "Mama." Whenever they saw each other, Mama grabbed and hugged him, squeezing him so hard he could hardly breathe. If he saw her later that same day, she would ask, "Bryan, do you still feel me hugging you?" If he said no, she grabbed him and squeezed him harder.

When Bryan was 9, while playing with his cousins, Mama took him by the hand and said, "Come sit with me a while. We need to talk."

Mama solemnly confided to him: "Bryan, I've been watching you. I think you are very special. I think you can do anything you want to do. I want you to promise me three things. Promise me you'll always love and take care of your mom, because she's my baby girl. Two, promise me you'll always do the right thing even when it's hard to do. Three, promise me that you'll never drink alcohol."

"Yes, Mama," 9-year-old Bryan promised.

When Bryan was a teenager, his brother once offered him a sip of beer. He declined. Brother lectured him: "Just don't get all hung up on that conversation Mama had years ago with you. It wasn't just you. She told every one of her grandkids that we were special."

Today, Bryan Stevenson, a Harvard Law School graduate and New York University Law School professor, is known worldwide for challenging laws that are biased against poor people. Millions have heard him credit Mama for his becoming an irrepressible force for justice, usually adding that, now in his mid-50s, he's never tasted a drop of alcohol.

If you are a grandparent, you might be uniquely positioned to help shape a grandchild's identity.

God's one question on judgment day, someone suggested, will be, "Did you love the ones I gave you to love?"

Dr. Wayne Willis