On my way to China, I stopped to visit friends in California. The grandmother had spent 53 years in China; her children, all born there, are now with her here, but her two grandchildren are still in Peking. While they have their government’s permission to leave, they are waiting for our state department to process their visas.

The day I visited was the grandmother’s eighty-eighth birthday; I wanted to get pictures of her and the family to take along for the two members in Peking. Thinking how nice it would be to surprise her, I had earlier called the White House to see if anything could be done to get the grandchildren out of China in time for a birthday surprise. They promised totry.

But the grandmother’s birthday arrived without the grandchildren. I felt free to tell them that at least we had tried. The pretty young mother, in her charming broken English, said, “I would like to tell you a story:

“Once there was a kind seller of cherries. A small boy stood watching him. The small boy loved cherries, but he had no money to buy with, only his eyes. And the kind seller of cherries saw the small boy and asked, ‘You want some cherries?’

“The small boy nodded his head. ‘Hold out your hands,’ said the kind seller of cherries. But the small boy would not.

“ ‘Hold out your hands,’ repeated the seller of cherries. Still the small boy did not move. So the kind seller of cherries gathered both hands full of cherries and told the small boy to hold out his shirt, and filled it with cherries.

“When he got home, his grandmother asked, ‘Why did you not hold out your hands when the kind seller of cherries told you to?’

“ ‘Because,’ said the small boy, ‘his hands were bigger than mine.’ ”

And the pretty young mother smiled. “His hands are bigger ...

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