Wondering in Washington, D.C.

Dear Gabby,

I live near my grandmother who is pretty wealthy. Gram has this thing about sticking a $20 or $50 in my pocket after we visit her – depending on her mood or how long we stay. Sometimes we play cards, sometimes we just chat. I guess it’s her way of saying thanks for visiting and I love you. I’ve always been psyched to get a little something at these visits but that’s never been the reason for the visit! The problem is that my cousin, who also lives nearby, has never gone to visit Gram. Her mom doesn’t like Gram. Never has. But when “Abby” overheard my sister joke about visiting the Bank of Gram, Abby started “popping in” to say hello to her. I just know she’s using Gram and it makes me sick. I feel like I should say something. Or should I?

Wondering in Washington, D.C.

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.

Psalm 37:6

Dear Wondering,

The song you’re singing is an old, old tune. And just about every family has sung it at some time or other – and no – it’s not very pretty. Gabby will tell you that almost certainly your instincts are spot-on. It sounds exactly like Abby is using Gram for the cash rewards. But Wondering, do you think your grandmother knows? If she doesn’t, then maybe she’s just happy that a lost lamb has come back and that she gets to spend some time with a grandchild she hasn’t reasonably gotten to know very well. Would that be so bad?

And what if she does know? Gram is probably just as astute as you. After all, how many times do you lose to her at cards? She’s raised children so Gabby’s pretty sure that Gram knows young adults aren’t unaffected by a little extra pocket money. That’s why you and your sister get a little something for your time. And like training any animal, humans included, thinking creatures respond to positive reinforcement. Gram knows that grandchildren will make a positive association of seeing grandma and receiving a reward. Is this bad?

Not really. She gets to spend some quality time with you and you get to spend quality time with her. You get some spending money and she gets to feel like she gave you some pleasure. Is anyone hurt by this? No – not so long as she can honestly afford these little gifts and the visits are done freely and genuinely. However, if you feel that Gram may not always be in command of her mental faculties or may be losing control of her finances, then you would have to reconsider this practice – even for yourself. Like we are reminded in Psalms, God knows everything that goes through our hearts and minds. He knows exactly what you and your cousin are thinking. But if you commit to a loving, trusting relationship with Him, God will make your righteousness shine for the world to see. I take this to mean that everyone involved – including Grandma – will understand at some point the difference between Abby’s visits and yours.

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