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For children everywhere, our thanks, our hope

Random musings on the birth of a new grandchild: You will forgive me if I digress this week from things agricultural. I am working at a strange computer in a place not my usual, without access to my files, and with an Internet connection that is, at best, glacial. Next week, I'll return to the ag fare.

We came late to grandparenting. Both our children married somewhat later than the norm and seemed not inclined to things parental. While our contemporaries bragged and showed photos of “grands” galore, even some great-grandchildren, we were pretty much resigned to having none.

Then, five and a half years ago, darling granddaughter Presley arrived to brighten our lives, allowing us to experience once again the wonder of watching a new life take shape (but without the 3 a.m. feedings, colic, etc., that come with one's own children), and to share the joys of her growth, walking, talking, learning, unabashedly loving one and all.

We'd pretty much accepted that she'd be a one and only.

But, surprise: Earlier this year, Presley informed us she would be having a little brother or sister. And on a breathtakingly splendid late November day, sister Audrey made her entrance into the world.

As I sat in the hospital room, watching her snuggled to her mother, sleeping so peacefully, tiny hands clasped in a cherubic pose, I could not help but think: Child, what a troubled, uncertain future you and all the new little babies everywhere are facing. You inherit a world of achievements and wonders your great-grandparents could not have imagined only a hundred years ago, and ahead of you will be equally incredible accomplishments.

Yet… and yet… perils also loom on a scale that could not have been dreamt a century ago. Man's appetite for destruction and inhumanity to his fellow man has, alas, more than kept pace with his laudable achievements. Not a pretty picture.

But, I reflected, hasn't it ever been so? The parents of the World War I era, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, surely had the same thoughts: What kind of world have I brought my child into?

I remember — on a bitterly cold winter's eve, after the Russians launched their crude satellite, Sputnik, touching off the space race and the Cold War nuclear arms buildup — listening on my army surplus shortwave receiver to the beep-beeping of the orbiting craft and agonizing over assertions of young men in our community that “we'll soon be at war with the Russians and it could be the end of the world.” Instead, there followed an era of unparalleled technological/economic achievement.

The day after Audrey's birth, we joined Presley at her kindergarten for Thanksgiving lunch. It was pandemonium: perhaps 500 kids, bursting with energy, waiting to be served their food so they could eat and go out to play.

There, and in nurseries and kindergartens everywhere — yes, also in slums and ghettoes and the poverty of the Third World — lies the future. In the faces of these children are reflected our hope and our challenge. For each of them, at this season of Thanksgiving, let us be grateful.


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