Recently, I had another birthday—it’s funny how that happens every year, right? Last year I wrote down 21 lessons that I would like to pass on to my future children from that stage of my life, and I’m doing a similar thing this year. While I am honestly writing this for my future children, if I have any, I thought I would share it with all of you as well. –Michael
Hey again, kids.
It’s been a year since I wrote to you last, and what a year it’s been. Your old man grew a lot over the past 365 days, and I’d like to think I’m better for it. While I know that if you’re anything like me, you’ll learn best through experience, I still want to take the time to share some things that will hopefully help you maximize your good experiences while minimizing your bad ones. If there is one thing that I’ve learned this year, it has simply been not to worry. It’s funny, there are so many sources out there telling us not to worry from the Bible to Bob Marley (some sources are more accurate than others), but as a culture we don’t really take that to heart. On a personal level, it is so easy for me to get worked up about the future, and I can’t even do anything to control the future! The past year has really driven home the verse that tells us not to worry about tomorrow. God takes care of the animals, and even the plants are clothed and fed, so won’t he take care of us as well? I never would have predicted that at 22 I’d be where I am now, and I don’t think you’ll be able to predict where you’ll end up either, so don’t stress out over it. Live a good life, love God and love others, and it will all fall into place.
That being said, life’s not going to be easy. When I said things “fall into place” that is not me saying that the world will be handed to you on a silver platter. You’ll have to work and put in the effort to get results. Even if I end up becoming a billionaire (which I highly doubt will happen), I will not let you coast by on that. If I am doing that, show me this letter so I can remember. Work is not the goal of life, but neither is it the enemy of a good life. Learn to work healthily.
“To give is better than to receive.” It might be cliché, but trust me, it’s true. Give generously. If you find $20 on the sidewalk, give some (or all) of it to the musician playing on the corner or the homeless person walking by or your brother or friend. It will help them out, and it will help you. Trust me on this. Don’t worry about what the person will do with the cash you gave them if you feel you’re supposed to give—that’s not your responsibility. Your responsibility is simply to give, and pray. The two go hand in hand.
“To be rather than to seem.” I don’t know who said that, but I saw it one day as I walked around the art museum, and it rang true. I live in a world obsessed with image—you probably will to. We build up a “brand” online and give this image of ourselves that is doctored and edited to fit what we want to portray. Screw that—actually be something. It is so much more fulfilling than putting on a façade, and you will be loved for what you really are.
Embrace the present. Learn to appreciate the past and learn from it, and look to the future to lay some rudimentary plans, but actually live in the present. Don’t be that man or woman who is forever looking back to the “good ol’ days”, and don’t always be waiting for the next big thing. It is hard, but being able to embrace the moment is shockingly refreshing.
Read some good books. Find some modern authors you enjoy, but also break open the classics. Immerse yourself in someone else’s life and words and learn from them.
Above all else, love others. Be kind. Be gentle. Be gracious. Treat other people like you want to be treated, guys. It’s as simple as that. Before you do something to someone, ask yourself if you would like to be treated like that. Total transparency here, kids, your dad has a really hard time with this right now, but I’m working on it.
I love you.I don’t even know you yet, but I already love you, and nothing you do will change that. Hopefully we’ll have many long years together, and you might get a little tired of hearing this, but I love you.
–Your Dad (August 30, 2013)