Years ago, long before my own marriage and the advent of my family, I posed a question to my father. I was twenty-something, full with the prospects of those potent years, and looking ahead – though not without some concern for, as I put it, “the direction the world was going.” At the time, I was imagining all of the usual stuff: a wife, kids – creating a family for myself in my own family’s image. But the world had just bested 6 billion humans and I queued with a kind of youthful idealism on overpopulation as my chief anxiety.
As it seemed to me, and as I explained to my father one night after dinner, there wasn’t enough space for all of the people who were already here. How could I, in good conscience, consider starting a family and adding a few more hungry bodies to the planet? They would just eat up more of our food, breathe up more of our air, produce more waste. Why would I add to the burden, the overcrowding, the misery of the world?
My father regarded me for a moment – perhaps he was considering where to begin or how to explain what he wished had been more obvious to me. After a moment he said, “You know, raising a family is everything. It is what humans do. If you don’t have kids you are not even in the game.” It was one of the best – and most straightforward – pieces of advice my father has ever given me.
My own marriage is 15 years old now and continues to be the most pleasing endeavor of my life. I have three beloved children and a daily sense that I am fully – often too fully – in the game. And I feel that I owe more than I know or can name to the example set by my parents. Like the concentric rings on the surface of a pond that begin with an event, a fish rising or a stone thrown, and expand and grow more subtle by the moment, until eventually they encompass, invisibly, the entire body of water, I am nurtured and moved by the long and continuing collaboration of two people who made the decision to marry 50 years ago. It is an enduring legacy, evidenced by me and my brothers and our families. We are all ripples in the pond.
With this I honor my parent’s 50 years of love and marriage, perseverance and compassion, challenge and growth. Thanks for the example and for encouraging me to get in the game.