Last month Susan and I became grandparents for the first time and Susan’s uncle celebrated his 100th birthday. The wonder of new birth and celebration of a life lived over a century.
The van Dykes arrived in New Amsterdam in 1652. They helped found five Dutch towns and were part of the birth of this nation. John Richardson van Dyke (Uncle Rich) has seen two world wars, the rise and fall of fascism and communism, the invention of television and the jet engine. He worked at IBM and RCA at the start of the computer age. His energy and zest for life continue to astound the family. He has friends of many generations.
Watching our son hold Lucy Hyde Corcoran, his newborn daughter, I imagined the million of bits of information being processed inside her tiny head as she gazed at him or surveyed the world around her while resting on his shoulder. What new wonders will she see in her lifetime?
Lucy inherits the genes of entrepreneurs, artists, writers, explorers, great homemakers, craftsmen, and fighters for social justice. What path will she follow? Where will she find her passion?
How will she and her generation face the challenges of this century? It will be a world very different from that of her great-great-uncle and she will likely see even greater changes.
Toward the end of his life, my father-in-law, the playwright Alan Thornhill, became a close friend of Malcolm Muggeridge, the well-known British journalist and broadcaster. The notoriously cynical Muggeridge had experienced a surprising spiritual awakening in his later years, even joining the Roman Catholic Church. Yet he remained deeply skeptical and pessimistic about society as a whole. In his marvelous book, Best of Friends, Alan describes Malcolm with a grandson laughing and playing on his knee while he proclaimed doom and gloom for every aspect of our civilization: “At last I could not refrain from asking, ‘What about Matthew in all this?’ Tears came into the old man’s eyes. Quietly he said, ‘Matthew will be all right.’ It was not wishful thinking or grandfatherly affection. It was his profound belief in and reverence for the wonder and sanctity of human life. He might despair of our society but he was utterly certain of God’s care and love for every individual…”
Likewise, I believe that Lucy and her generation will be all right. Call me an incurable optimist but I believe in the unbreakable power of the human spirit. Hope triumphs over fear. Love vanquishes hate. And, as Alan Thornhill was fond of saying, evil ultimately over-reaches itself. Despite injustice, cruelty, and corruption, good continues to surprise and overcomes in the end.
Welcome to this world, Lucy.