August 2020 – We must trust that the institutions our forefathers built can bear the strain and that young people, as they grow, can gain the wisdom to build, not destroy.
My wife, Debbie, was pregnant, with my eldest son, William, when she called me. I was in the car, and she said to turn on the radio. The World Trade Center in New York had been hit.
I’ve written many pieces about William over the years. When I launched Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, he received the moniker of the Junior Pundit Primo (his brother is Segundo Pundit), but I still remember the horrible anger and sadness knowing he was being born into a world of such conflict and hatred.
I still feel the bitterness I felt of the lost lives and resources wasted as the buildings in New York collapsed. But I always believed in myself, my family, my friends and my country. And, somehow, some way, I believed in my newborn son.
He has not disappointed. At 18 years of age, he is already one of the world’s leading experts on Disney, amusement parks and animated characters. He has his own websites and a global network of fellow travelers who consult daily. He is honest and honorable; he is dutiful and loving; he has become, very much, his own man.
And his father, whose primary job all these years has been to shield him… to give a chance for William to be William in a world filled with terrorists and, well, as we would be reminded, disease… confesses a little despair at the current moment.
As I write this column, William, with his mother and brother, are working their way up to Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, driving around Pennsylvania, because that is a non-quarantine state, unlike our home state of Florida. So, with the intent to fill my son’s websites with more content, they are visiting Hershey Park, Sesame Place and other amusement parks. In the bizarre world we live in, it was decided by the powers that be that interacting with hundreds of children and staff members in Pennsylvania is safer than staying confined in our home in Florida.
In a moment of weakness, or maybe just love… out of a desire to protect him, out of anger and despair that outside forces would, once again, define his journey… this father thought he would shield him. I urged him to postpone college, take a year off, and we could find work and engagement.
Yet the mature young-man William put his arm around his father, and showing wisdom when his father felt fear and despair, said, “Don’t worry, Dad. This is my time. I must move forward; in the end this will be my great generational experience, and I have to be a part of it and make the most of it.”
Then I shed a tear, for whatever the future might be — what wars, disease or other horror he might confront — I felt I had done my job. For I was wrong, and he was right. The future always lies ahead, and it is pointless to fear it. We must make of it what we can; we must be what we can be.
It is not easy. So many friends in the foodservice arena are losing everything. We started with an idea for the industry’s first magazine, Produce Business, but wound up hosting events around the world. All mostly cancelled or postponed.
But when a disease rolls across the world, you must be grateful if you don’t have it or if you get it and recover.
Of course, it is not only COVID-19 that troubles us these days. There are riots, and there is racial tension. Many my son’s age do not feel free to speak. On the other hand, many speak too much and too quickly, without having done the study necessary to help us move forward. It is easy to be fearful and easy to fall into despair. But what would that get us?
We must trust that the institutions our forefathers built can bear the strain and that young people, as they grow, can gain the wisdom to build, not destroy.
William was born a month after the Twin Towers fell in New York. My wife had just given birth and was sleeping soundly. I sat holding William in my left arm as I typed with my right. I wrote this:
October 19 seems to be an auspicious date for launching great things. Not only is October 19 my newborn son’s birthday, but it was on October 19, 1985, that we launched PRODUCE BUSINESS magazine.
The creation of both reflected a faith in the possibilities of tomorrow and a determination to be part of doing great things.
We have always worked hard to fully develop PRODUCE BUSINESS magazine, and we are gratified that from that small dream has sprung not merely a worthy industry resource but, indeed, a whole company. Yet, we feel certain the potential is unlimited.
Now, with young William, we have much work to do. But it is joyous work indeed.
Perhaps with bombs dropping in Afghanistan, Anthrax attacks on the home front, economic decline and countless other miseries detailed in the daily papers, these are not the best of times to run a business or have a son.
But both PRODUCE BUSINESS and my son have had the inestimable good fortune to be born here in the United States of America. One does not have to be a great expert in history to realize that there are few burdens indeed that could outweigh the benefits of that blessing.
We are being tested as a nation. The burden feels heavy. Yet, if there are enough young people like William in his generation, then we will endure and prevail. And this father will be proud to have, in a little way, contributed to the solution. pb