It’s Halloween Night and my son, John Adams, is off trick-or-treating for the first time in a little train engineer’s outfit, and I can’t be with him and his mommy because I have a Halloween performance of Sister Act. In all honesty, my heart is with them, not the show, and I’m feeling sorry for myself. On the way to the theatre I decided to listen to an old audio recording on my iPod (yes, my iPod!) of the motivational speaker, Earl Nightingale, called The Essence of Success. I’ve been listening to it off and on for the last few days on the way to work in Richmond, so it’s no big decision to put it on; I’m really just trying to finish it and cut through the sullen silence.
Half way to the theatre, I’m half listening to the recording and half imagining what my son is doing in my absence, and Earl says more or less the following: If today was the last day of your life, and you only had 30 seconds to share your life’s wisdom with your child, what would you say? It stopped me cold. I paused the recording, kept driving, and got immediately lost deep in thought. What would I tell Bup (we call him Buppy) if I knew it was my last chance to share anything with him? I suppose Halloween is the time for morbidly fun thoughts, but it really did get me thinking. What do I really want him to know? By the time I got to the theatre I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to say, so during the show – I have a tremendous amount of time backstage as “the Monsignor” – I typed out the following list. I know John Adams is too young to read this list just yet, but hopefully someday he will discover it and choose to live by its wisdom. So here it is, in all its haste, written to my little love; ten things I would want my son to know if this was my last day. And God willing, it isn’t my last day, and I’ll be able to model many of them by example.
- Give everyone the gift of your love; give those that earn it the gift of your trust; and give yourself the gift of your talents, industry, intellect, and compassion.
- Contrary to what many people will tell you, you do have a responsibility both to yourself and to the world to live your best life. You may come back many times, but you are only this you once. Make it count for something.
- On that subject, everyone you meet will have an opinion on what you should be doing with your life. Listen to the people you trust, but ultimately it’s your life. Do with it what you want, and if they don’t like it, screw ‘em.
- Again on that subject, find someone you admire and model your life on them.
- Sadly, most endeavors you attempt will not work out; that’s life. But if you are passionate, persistent, and use strategic planning, many of your endeavors will bear some fruit.
- Know that your parents love you unconditionally no matter what you do, and have tried to do their best by you. When they have made mistakes, they’ve been honest ones. When they’ve made decisions you didn’t like, it’s most likely they were trying to protect you.
- As of your second birthday, you have been babysat by people who were white, black, Asian, straight, gay, Unitarian, Catholic, Protestant, Mormon, Muslim, and atheist, and all of them have offered you unconditional love. The world will attempt to prejudice you. Whether the influence comes from your parents, grandparents, friends, extended family, or the unfortunate scenarios the world throws at us, please try to fight against this and remember that all people deserve to be judged on their own strengths and weaknesses. Bigotry is for lazy people who are too afraid to see each situation and person as unique. It’s beneath you.
- Everyone you meet will have an opinion on where you go after you die. Generally speaking, the open-minded people that tell you they have a good idea where we go but aren’t sure are the one’s closer to the truth. Those you meet who know for sure are ones to be wary of. Love is God, and God is Love. Everything else is set dressing.
- People will let you down sometimes. You will let you down sometimes. Learn forgiveness, especially of yourself. Your daddy is not good at this part, so set him a better example. Harboring grudges and resentments just forces you to live in an unhappy past. The past is in the past; leave it there. Have one eye “in the now” and the other on the future.
- Lastly, Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Live by this and you’ll be fine.
Respectfully submitted with all the love in my heart.
Happy Halloween my Brave Little Man,
Daddy, All Hallows Eve, 2015
P.S. Love whoever you want. I almost forgot that. But make sure they have a good heart and a healthy appetite. And like bacon.