The Importance of Intergenerational Relationships: An Illustration

My grandfather, Lester E. Potts, Sr, who died when I was 10 years old, was my best childhood friend. We shared a special bond forged over Sunday afternoon cedar-shaded stories and Wednesday morning fishing adventures. “Let’s throw a party,” he would say, and proceed to make a little celebration out of a mundane moment of our relationship. There was a good bit of quiet time with Big Daddy (as I called him). Or, it seemed that way to me. But there was a lot of communication, all the same.

Shortly before Easter, 1976, Big Daddy told us about a spell he had experienced while walking down the side walk in front of his home. “I froze, couldn’t move for a minute.” I remember Dad suggesting that he seek medical attention, something he rarely did (Rubbing alcohol had been his only medication). This led to a diagnosis of TIA, and a hospital admission for cerebral arteriography to look for blockages that could lead to stroke.

I remember with intense clarity what happened in Big Daddy’s hospital room that night after the arteriogram.  Somewhat agitated and appearing afraid (I had never known him to be this way) he began to try to tell us what the experience of the arteriogram had been like for him. But he struggled to get his words out, to express his thoughts. He seemed frustrated by this, and the fear showed more clearly in his eyes. Obviously, he had sustained a stroke during the procedure, my parents later told me. But right then, all I knew was that my Big Daddy was scared, and I needed to help.

I remember looking at him with compassion that his old spirit was pulling out of me. I wanted to help him find the words he was groping for, so that he could let us know how the experience had felt for him. He needed us to know, and he was growing more and more angst-ridden with each broken phrase, babbling farther and farther from language we could understand.

He appeared to be giving up in exasperation. Then he turned and looked directly into my eyes. I feel I will never forget this moment that happened 40 years ago. All the relational intensity of our times together seemed to well up right then, and he said three words. As he said them, a peace seemed to come over him. “Danny Boy knows.” And then he leaned back in his bed.

He needed someone to understand. He needed communication, communion. Someone to validate his anxiety, to know what he had felt. To hold his hand and comfort him. He needed his 10-year-old fishing buddy by his side. And I was there because he loved me, and I loved him.

Brain cells had been disconnected from each other. Spirits had not.

Yes, sir. Danny boy knows.

And I hope I always will.

This Little Light

“This little light of mine…”
in spite of the pundits,
the doubters,
the gossipers,
the haters;
in spite of the newscasters,
the wall builders,
the excluders,
the “no” sayers;
in spite of disconnection,
talk of dark futures,
memories of dark pasts;
in spite of the losses,
the deaths,
the failures;
in spite of my own living short of love…
“I’m gonna let it shine,
let it shine,
let it shine.”

“What the World Needs Now”

“I don’t need you to try and fix me,” he muttered,
“or tell me everything’s all right, because it’s not.
What I need is for you to be here.
I need you, not your advice.
Presence, not pat answers. Do you see?
Bearing with me. Listening. Hearing.
Trying to know how it feels here.
I need you to look at me, even if
I have to look away.
To be my mirror, reflecting everything but shame.
It’s dark here. But there must be light for reflecting, right?
I need you to bring light to this darkness.
You don’t have to be a hero, a winner, all put-together.
I need to hear you say my name. The name I’m named in my soul.
Whisper it to me. Will you do this? Do you know that name?
Whisper it again ’til you see me turning around. Looking up.
Please, you don’t need to bring me anything.
Empty hands are better to hold.
See? What I need for you to do
is bring God in here, into this empty, dimly lit room.
That’s right. God. The Light where God is.
And the mercy they say shows up in rooms like this.
Will you come and bring those things to me?
I hope only for this.”

The Woman in the Woods

Walking in the woods
I often see her there.
Kneeling, with her hands in the stream.
Reaching out to touch a leaf.
Picking up a rock to ponder.
Training her ear on a bird call.
Lifting a gaze to the clouds.
Gathering acorns just to hold them.
Drawing in a breath of honeysuckle.
Writing notes to the wind with her fingers.
Leaving messages in the sand.
Sometimes she sings and dances near the water.
She looks like tenderness, like love’s supposed to look.
Does she see me? Does she know I’ve come?
Come to learn this touching, seeing, singing, dancing art.
I cannot say. She is old. Her eyes are old.
But she moves in morning light like a little girl
dancing with her Dollie.


There are some things you just know. 

Or you think you know them. But part of you 

doubts that they are true. You want them to be. 

Because they are good things. Right things. 

Kind and loving things. Bathed in light from 

Somewhere else. They make your tuning fork

vibrate in a way that feels like Life. They look

beautiful to the eye of your soul. Like home looks 

to the one who’s been lost. You feel as if 

you’ve been there before. With someone you love.

Then, in your doubting, you wander into another.

Or you read their words or see their actions or see 

your self mirrored in their face. In that moment,

you know some of the truth of their lives.

Which is some truth of your life, too. Then 

you understand. There are some things.

You. Just. Know.


The old man sat,
rocking a mite more slowly
than the rhythm of the little boy and his dog,
lost inside a barn dancing, tail chasing
back yard daydream.
But way down deep he joined them,
a willing third in their joyful two step.
And the light from the old man’s eyes
kept the sun from going down,
an endless twilight curtain call.



Living inside the reality of it, extended to you when you don’t deserve it. 


Given when judgment could have killed you; but instead, Love brought you to back to life. 


Teaching you how to love your neighbor, because so great a gift must be given back. 


Teaching you how to love yourself, because you are worth loving. 


Teaching you how to love God, family, and friends who have extended it you. 


Melting the hardest heart of stone. 


The warm clear water that calls you to wade. 


The only hope for me, and you, and this whole world. 


Fueled by a depth of Love we cannot fathom. 


Experienced profoundly; rewiring your brain and rearranging your living. 


Thank you, God, for such a gift as mercy.