Along with the incredible blessing that children are to a family, they also come into the world full of potential and promise that parents and grandparents are responsible to cultivate.
As parents, that responsibility is constantly on your mind as your children grow up in plain sight nearly each and every day of their formative years. As grandparents, according to proximity and other factors, you may or may not see your grandchildren regularly. However, if you do have that blessing scripture is clear that you, too, have a responsibility to “pass it along to the next generation” (Psalm 78:4).
One of the key discoveries in passing along our spiritual heritage to our grandchildren is to try to identify with something that your grandchildren find interesting. Carol and I are blessed with eight grandkids (currently), seven of whom live close by. We’re starting to see things that interest them such as art, reading, music and a number of sporting activities. However, there’s one gene that runs through my side of the family and it’s a passion for all things automotive.
I remember so distinctly that I wanted to drive a car at age 12 and my Dad recognized that he wouldn’t find any rest until he “scratched that itch” for me. Most of you reading this won’t remember the first go kart but the better ones were called “track-rabbits”. They were simple machines made of steel with no suspension, four hard rubber tires, and a small lawn mower engine for power.
I can still remember very clearly the day that my Dad took me into the garage and pulled the cover off the “jack-rabbit” that he had managed to put together in his spare time without me knowing about it. I remember even more clearly the thrill of driving that machine on remote neighborhood streets at speeds up to 15 or 18 miles per hour! I was hooked.
Fast forward now some fifty five years or so. One of my grandsons, Jack, has had clear evidence of the “automotive gene” for the last couple of years. It started slowly but has been picking up momentum as he reads everything he can get his hands on, goes to car shows, talks to owners and drivers and spends a solid portion of his free time with some incredible video games that we had never see back in the day.
Well, today I made good on a promise to Jack by taking him to a relatively new, state of the art, go kart track about 20 miles from his home in Cranberry. I thought that his best shot at getting some good time behind the wheel would be in the mid-week, and in the mid-afternoon. Today was that day and it was something to watch.
The folks who were running the track that day were all friendly and helpful. To my surprise, they offered hardly any instruction except to not push the gas and the brake at the same time…which you’d only do if you were confused!
After Jack put on the required helmet, headpiece, neck brace and fire resistant jacket, he hopped into the 10 hp go kart for his first ride. (As the commercial says, these are not your granddaddies go karts…!) Capable of 45 mph in the straight-away, on a .83 mile track, Jack had his very first experience in actually driving a machine near or at its limits in curves and on the straight-aways.
His first session had a couple of hiccups as he learned how much speed he could carry into a turn and where turning too quickly could cause your kart to do a neat little spin. However, once he mastered those few unique characteristics, he really got into it.
In the second session, the young guy in charge of overseeing the track that day, commented that Jack’s lap times were “really good” and below that of many more experienced drivers that he had seen over the months he’d worked there. Honestly, it wasn’t a surprise to me. Jack used all of the things he had learned on the video games, read in the magazines, and from extended conversations with – yes, his grandfather among others, and poured all of that into making “speed”.
After the two sessions, which weren’t really long in terms of time but were quite challenging in terms of concentration, the elements, and a sense of always wanting to go faster, Jack was both exhilarated… and a bit exhausted. When the track manager gave Jack the printouts of his lap times and he saw where he shaved off nearly 20 seconds from when he started to when he finished, his smile went from ear to ear.
We talked all the way home about things he had learned and perhaps more significantly, ways he could work going forward to be able to spend more time learning the karts in preparation for his real dream which is to go on the big track with a serious automobile.
In short, this was a half a day together that I think Jack will remember for a long, long time. “Yes, but what spiritual value did it have?” some of you may be asking. I’m not sure I know authoritatively how to answer that but my hunch is that when I sit down with Jack and talk about the books we’re reading together and the scriptures that we study together, he’ll be a bit more open and a lot more communicative because he knows we have one other “special interest” that we share in great detail. As one of the very first contemporary Christian songs I ever learned said so powerfully, “that’s how it is with God’s love, once you experience it… you want to pass it on”. We pass it on over pizza, we pass it on in reading a book together, and we pass it on on the racetrack with go karts…and of life.