Your Children Are Your Only Wealth
We ran toward the point as dusk approached. Half way there I scooped up a large, green coconut from the beach. It was heavy with water. For another mile we lobbed it front to back, down the line, rugby-style, one to another, as we pounded fast across the sand. John, William, Charlie and me.
Several years ago an older Chinese man, fifteen years my senior, drove me in a limo from NYC to my home. He said his name was Song Zhu and he peppered me with questions - the kind of driver who appraises each of his passengers. He looked me over and wanted to know where I was from and what I did for a living. It's a natural question for a poor immigrant. Song Zhu worked hard, for long hours. I told him my job and that I was from another country too - Scotland. He asked me if I had children. "Three sons." I said. The car slowed to a crawl in the Lincoln Tunnel as he glanced at me in the rearview mirror. Then he turned his head and shoulders to look me directly in the eyes. "In China" he told me, "we have a saying: "With a son you are never poor. Without a son you are never rich." In my gray business suit and tie, headed to my suburban home, Song Zhu knew I was well-off. But with my three sons this man considered me unfathomably wealthy.
I had traveled to China for business and the women I met there had often asked about my family. Without exception they were stunned when I mentioned my three sons. Awed looks accompanied comments in Chinese to their companions. Others were invited in to meet this Western businessman with so many sons. "How fortunate your wife!" they exclaimed.
China's social patriarchy is self-evident and its One Child Policy infamous. Nevertheless, in my own life experience I came to realize the essential truth underlying the Chinese opinion I had heard. In a world in which evolution is everything, our progeny and its potential is the most elemental measure of our success and the truest measure of our well-being. Not material goods. Michael Corleone was the gifted son, inheritor and builder of The Godfather's great illicit empire. Yet, ever insightful, he saw where the true value lay and said "Your children are your only wealth."