As an exercise in his men's group, Jim and his fellows were asked to write a letter imparting a wisdom they had acquired from a lifetime's experience to an as yet unborn grandchild. -ed.
To my "grand" niece or nephew, I am writing this assuming you have never met me. Perhaps, in reality, you will have some vague memories of "Uncle Jim" as some old relative from your early childhood, but, whatever. . . .I write to you to share some thoughts and observations from my life.
I choose you because I did not have any children of my own, and that is part of my message. Bringing children into the world is optional for everyone! Even though I was married for 5 years, between the ages of 25-30, I consciously chose not to have children. Why? Because I never felt a strong internal desire to father a child and I believe that bringing a new life onto this planet is a very serious responsibility and raising a child is one of the most difficult jobs, demanding 24 hour-a-day responsibility for approximately 20 years. Furthermore, in our society which you are now becoming an adult member of, there is little help and few competent examples of healthy child-rearing. The structure of the isolated, nuclear family simply does not work well, and as a culture we have lost all of the meaningful rituals and practices of initiation of young human beings into advancing levels of wisdom and responsibility. Attempts to counter these problems through the formation of extended family structure have been sporadic (although I do believe that the creation of extended community is part of the ultimate answer . . . "we ain't there yet!"). In addition, taking a broader view, "the last thing this planet needs is more human beings!" Our species has already seriously damaged the ecosystem of our planet on which all life depends. More humans can only make it worse. On a secondary level, there is not one significant social problem (hunger, disease, crime, etc.) which would not be improved by having less humans. This message may seem extreme, but since it is probably the only time in your life you will be confronted with it, I feel justified. Creating a new life (or by adoption) and raising one to maturity can be one of the most meaningful and joyous of life experiences. But only do it if you thoroughly understand the realities and responsibilities and you are certain that it is what you really want. Finally, there are other meaningful and joyous paths in life. I offer my personal example as testament to this.