When Sylvie de Toledo’s sister died from a drug overdose, she left behind her eight-year-old son, Kevin. Sylvie’s parents immediately took Kevin in and raised him from then on. It wasn’t easy, and Sylvie, a social worker, saw the toll it took on her parents’ marriage and health.
In her work, Sylvie was seeing more and more grandparents dealing with the same situation. She knew they felt isolated and alone. Moved to help, she started a small support group for about ten grandparents raising their grandchildren. Soon so many grandparents were attending that Sylvie had to do more. So she started her own nonprofit, Grandparents as Parents.
Almost thirty years later Grandparents as Parents helps more than three thousand families a year, providing guidance, financial assistance, legal advice, and emotional support.
Today nearly three million children in America are being raised by their grandparents. Many of those grandparents live on fixed incomes and are unprepared for the financial and emotional costs of raising their children’s children.
“We’ve seen countless families who maxed out credit cards and used all their savings before they even ask for help,” Sylvie said.
Her organization has become “a one-stop shop for relative caregivers.” More than 90 percent of those they help are grandparents; but aunts, uncles, siblings, and close friends have stepped up to care for children when their biological parents can’t, and Sylvie helps them all.
“So many times, these families are completely overwhelmed. The kids come to them with a dirty diaper and a T-shirt that’s way too big for them.”
Grandparents as Parents saves families, keeps thousands of children out of foster care, and works to prevent siblings from being separated. But Sylvie credits caregivers for being the true heroes.
“It’s really the grandparents and relatives doing this that deserve the recognition for putting their own lives on hold,” she said. “I was able to plant a seed with something that happened in my own family. . . . From a family tragedy, something wonderful has happened.”
Compassion is about the moment. It’s about what I have in hand—money, talent, encouragement, or a shoulder to cry on—that will meet another person’s need. Compassion is about those times in our lives when God intends for us to be the healer, the helper, the hero in the life of another person.
Sylvie de Toledo acted with compassion for grandparents going through what she’d seen her own parents struggle with. Beyond helping them through her job as a social worker, she wanted them to know they weren’t alone and to have a community where they could share ideas and support each other. Sylvie did what she could with what she had. And what she began, God multiplied.
In all of human literature, no greater illustration of what it means to be compassionate exists than the story Jesus told about the Good Samaritan. That story, recorded only in Luke’s gospel, teaches us that we can never separate our relationship with God from our relationship with our fellow man.
In the previous chapters of this book, I have told the biblical story about the discipline we are studying, and then I have concluded the chapter with some practical how-to suggestions for putting that discipline into practice. But in this chapter, the story and the strategies are so intertwined that we will not be able to separate them. So in the pages that follow, we’ll discover how to live a life of compassion as we walk through the story of the Good Samaritan. After all, it’s often the stories we encounter that change our hearts and motivate us to action.
David Jeremiah, A Life beyond Amazing: 9 Decisions That Will Transform Your Life Today (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2017).
I have just completed a series of lessons based on David Jeremiah’s book, A Life Beyond Amazing. They are available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription service. For a medium-sized church, lesson subscriptions are only $10 per teacher per year.