Dear Cameron: You have been in this world for a tad more than five years now. I think you would agree it has been a pretty good ride to this point. A lot of people love you and care deeply about you. When you are older, you will understand just how fortunate you are.
You have brought a lot to the party. When you showed up at my door at Christmas with a plate of cookies you baked for me after watching a grocery commercial that featured a little girl making cookies for her grandfather, you gave me the greatest gift I have received since you first arrived on the planet. I don’t believe you did that because you thought you would get something in return. I believe you did it because you love me. Here you are, younger than most of my dress shirts, and you already have figured out the power of love. May I never forget what you taught me that day.
I wish life could stay this simple for you but, alas, it doesn’t work that way. As you get older, you will find yourself in a world where people don’t have the same value system that has been instilled in you. There will be a lot of peer pressure for you to change and to be like others, go along and get along. Don’t do it. Be brave enough to be yourself, but don’t act like you are superior to others. Let your confidence quietly show through.
Admittedly, I am biased, but I see enormous potential in you. How close you come to reaching that potential is strictly up to you. No one can achieve your dreams for you. Only you can do that. You can be anything you choose to be. Presidents of the United States don’t just fall out of the sky. Neither do scientists, artists, inventors or athletes. Successful people got where they are because they refused to get discouraged when things got tough. And things will get tough. That is just how life is. It knocks a lot of people down who don’t have the grit to get back up.
Read everything you can get your hands on about successful people. You will discover they had some luck along the way, but it seems the harder they worked, the luckier they got. Let their stories inspire you to greatness.
Whatever you do, aim high. To me, the saddest souls are those who weren’t willing to take chances or run risks — people who worried about what other people might think of them and their dreams. They didn’t have the courage to get into the arena and fight for what they believed in, or they were just too lazy to make the effort. As a result, they are doomed to spend the rest of their lives wondering “what if” or “what I could have been” and denigrating the success of others. I would suffocate in that kind of environment. I hope you will feel the same way.
Lest I give you the impression that success is about fame and power and running roughshod over people to reach your goals, let me hasten to add that nothing could be further from the truth. Success is doing something worthwhile, doing it to the best of your abilities, being happy as you do it and making this a better world because you were here.
Never, ever settle for less than the best from yourself whether it be schoolwork (especially schoolwork!), playing sports, keeping your room clean, being a good son and grandson or solving a puzzle. Never rationalize poor effort.
Remember that each day is a precious gift. Make every minute count. There are no guarantees you will get a do-over tomorrow. Develop a deep faith in God. Be the kind of person who everyone wants as their friend. Have a positive attitude and don’t be a whiner. Nobody likes a whiner. And don’t be boastful. Nobody likes a braggart, either.
I wish I could be around long enough to see how you turn out, but my race is almost run. I have every confidence that you will do fine. I just hope you have as much fun in your life as I have had in mine. I didn’t always get it right, but I gave it my best shot. That is all I ask of you. Happy New Year and, again, thanks for the cookies.
Email Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org or write him at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, GA 31139.