My husband and I celebrated two joyous events early this week. On Sunday, we were guests at a ninetieth birthday brunch and a day later we welcomed a young lady whose age we are now counting in days rather than years.
Rosie, may she live and be well, and my mother, may she rest in peace, began a friendship when they were five-year-old neighbors. When Rosie’s oldest sister married my mother’s uncle the ties grew stronger. On Sunday, her five children honored her at a birthday brunch where she was lovingly feted by over sixty children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and friends. A day later, our newest granddaughter made her appearance.
The juxtaposition of the events got me to thinking. There is a saying in ancient Jewish wisdom, “Who is wise? He who sees what is born.” Note that it doesn’t say, “He who sees the future.” We aren’t being told that one needs prophecy to be wise; one needs to be able to see that which is likely to happen if we expand our vision beyond the present.
In 1979, when China announced its one-child policy, my husband—one of the wisest men I know—told his students that with families limited to one child, girls would be aborted or abandoned, a tragedy in itself. The problems would be compounded down the road, he said, when China would face a crisis as armies of young men were unable to find wives. Over the years we watched this very situation unfold and read articles with bemusement as social scientists pontificated on this “unexpected consequence.” Faced with the results of a failed policy, China has rescinded it.
So many young women and couples today, in affluent societies, opt to delay childbirth or not to have children at all. They relish focusing on their careers and vacationing in exotic locales. Babies, even the easiest of them, have a tendency to change that, as they should.
Can a twenty-two-year-old actually picture herself at ninety? She probably can’t even visualize herself at forty, let alone older. Does she imagine, even assuming good health, being in a retirement community with only those close to her own age and relying on paid help for whatever assistance she needs? Can she picture the loneliness of being limited to the present and past, without children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews to shine a light into the future? I doubt that any young person could.
Some people are not blessed with children no matter how much they are desired. Other times, tragically, parents survive their children rather than the other way around. Children can be sources of disappointment rather than delight. There is poignant truth in the saying that one mother can care for ten children while ten children struggle to care for one mother.
Nonetheless, in a society that follows Godly, rather than human wisdom, one which celebrates the commandment to be fruitful and multiply, an aging population is outnumbered by the next generation. If that generation too has been taught the commandment to honor parents and to glorify the elderly, getting older can be a busy and productive time of passing on wisdom and enjoying the fruits of one’s labor. I pray that our newest blessing stays immune from foolish and ephemeral societal trends and instead makes her life decisions based on the wisdom of ages that will allow her to “see that which is born.”