Dear Emma, Ephraim, and Noah –
You’re only 6, 2, and 11 months now – but your starting to learn the ways of the world. Of right and wrong, of good and evil. I’m only 27, but I wanted to make sure to have something recorded for you. They say the greatest contribution is what you leave behind.
If that’s true – and who you are now is any indication of who you will be – they should just give me the Nobel Peace prize now and be done with it. Anyways – let’s talk for a moment – if you lose your Dad before he’s had a chance to throw catch in the backyard or walk you down the aisle – this is so you know what he stood for. What he believed in for you and for others. Granted, I’ve borrowed from many great mentors – both friends and families (and some who called me enemy as well) over the years to create this list. I’m probably the biggest rule breaker of this list – but I try. It’s all I can ask of you. It might change over the years – but the core values won’t change. I hope one day you can write one for your children as well.
So kids, here you are:
Everyone needs a manifesto. A set of rules and principles to live by. Here’s mine for you:
1 – Work hard. But not too hard. Find a balance in what you do and realize that they call it work for a reason. That said, if you consitently get out of bed and dread the day – change. Your happiness at your career is directly reflective on the happiness of your family. Hate your career, your family will see a side of you that you wish they wouldn’t. Bottom line, enjoy what you do. If you don’t – find something else. A paycheck is never worth misery. Ever.
2 –Be affectionate. Your Dad’s not an affectionate person. It’s not really a known nature. But he’s found out that a hug, a kiss, and wrestling on the floor go a much longer way than any words he’ll ever tell you. That doesn’t mean words are not important. Look, I’m okay with going to bed angry – as long as you said I love you as you walked away. Also, it’s okay to cry.
3 – Laugh. Be silly. It’s vitally important you laugh at yourself. Allow others to laugh at you. They might be doing it for the right reasons, but even if they are not – life’s too short to let it rub you the wrong way. Your Mom and I fell in love because we had way too serious of jobs, and weren’t serious people. Our first date was the Zoo (we skipped out on work), we spent more time laughing with each other than looking at the animals. Be goofy.
4 – Find someone to trust and give them your trust. Even if you are betrayed, at least you gave it all you had. Living your life in fear of being lied to or manipulated will bring you great misery. When you are lied to – give grace. One day, you’ll betray another and hope for it as well.
5 – Don’t do it alone. Relationships are so vitally important. Make friends. Be a friend. Be a lover. Don’t be afraid of rejection – it will happen if you fear it or not. If you find yourself “catching up with old friends” more often than hanging out with your current ones – reevaluate your priorities.
6 – Pray. Love God. Jesus Christ will never fail you. That’s right, Jesus. People are okay with you saying “God.” But not Jesus. Don’t let that deter you. Jesus died on the cross for the sinful person you are. If all personal relationships fail in your life, he’ll still be there. There have been two or three times in your Dad’s short life so far where the last thing left to do was to hit his knees. Jesus is good for anything. Just keep this one thing in mind – he’s your friend – your best case lawyer in life’s trials. He’s on your side. He’s not there to judge. Remember that. I have a feeling by the time you read this and comprehend it’s purpose – you’ll be persecuted for even saying his name. Say it anyways.
7 – Save. Spend wisely. Give often. But realize it’s just money. There will be days, I’m afraid, when you have will no idea where the next meal will come from or how you’ll pay the rent. Dig deep and count on faith. Realize that the God you serve is bigger than the stack of bills. Also realize that not having everything is more of a blessing than any checkbook balance. There were many nights your Mom and I made five dollars seem like millions.
8 – Take care of each other. Family is the most important thing you’ll ever have. There are 3 of you. The odds of success are in your favor if you stick together and love each other through the hard times and the good times. Never, ever, ever let anyone mess with your family. Fight for it – in the end, they’ll be the ones there by your side and the last to leave it.
9 – Find your passion and embrace it. Don’t let anything stop you from going for your passion. The cold hard reality is you can’t be anything you want to be – but I’ve never heard of anyone who had a passion for something and wasn’t able to be successful at it. Passion is a harder driving force than any other sort of motivation.
10 – When you see injustice – scream loud and fight it with every fiber of your soul. I honestly believe the calling on our family is to fight injustice. Never, ever be content. If we leave one legacy to this world – I want it to be this: “The Dawson family was never content.” They were never luke-warm. When you see something you love – embrace it and consume it. When you someone is in need – give them the shirt off your back. When you laugh – laugh so hard it hurts. When it comes time to work hard, leave nothing undone and give it all you have.
Look, not everyday will this list become easy. But someone once told me the secret of life is not in accomplishing everything – but to goto bed each night and be able to honestly say these words in your prayer:
“Well, God, I tried. I gave it all I got. Tomorrow’s a new day.”