To Nicholas Wansley and Brian and Thomas Yarbrough:
If my abacus is working properly, this is the 12th year I have dispensed some grandfatherly advice to you in the hopes that something I tell you will be helpful as you step out into a world that looks a lot more complicated than the one I encountered at your age.
When I first started this annual correspondence, you were learning to ride your bicycles and were of the unanimous opinion that girls were yucky. Now, one of you is a father and another will be married this year. You have swapped your bicycles and the carefree days that went with them for automobiles and jobs. You have discovered also that you had vastly underestimated the power and glory of the opposite sex.
Over the years we have discussed a number of subjects: God (there is one); parents (it’s amazing how smart they get as you get older. I told you that would happen); personal responsibility (you are free to make your decisions, but you must live with the consequences – good or bad); integrity (if you ever lose it, it is very difficult to get it back); patriotism (be proud and humble that you live in the greatest country on earth); accepting each single day as the precious gift it is and having a little fun in life (just don’t overdo it.)
You are too respectful of the old man to say it, but I suspect you know more about a lot of stuff these days than I do. Much of it has to do with technology.
In that regard, maybe you could tell me why the world needs Twitter. I have managed to get through life without feeling the urge to inform the world of what I had for lunch – in 140 characters or less – and I’m not inclined to start at this late date.
I embrace as much technology as I can absorb at my advanced stage. (However, I will never accept “google” as a verb. I do have some standards.) What scares me about technology, however, is that while it exposes us to more information, that doesn’t automatically make us wiser. In fact, it sometimes does just the opposite. Trivial things become important (i.e., what I had for lunch) and important things become trivial (i.e. most anything that requires cognitive thinking).
Don’t believe everything you read, see or hear (with the exception of this column, of course). Get as much factual information as you can and make a wise and informed decision based on a variety of sources. Your future and that of your family may depend on it. Learn something of value every day. Technology can help, but it is not the answer – just a means to the answer.
While you can get information much faster than I could my generation, faster is not necessarily better. Some of the best things in life are slow, if we will only put our smartphones down long enough to observe.
Since the beginning of time, we have had a sunrise to greet us each morning and to remind us that we have been given a new day and a new opportunity to do things better – you should always be trying to improve – and to learn from the mistakes of the previous day. Thank God for both the sunrise and for the new opportunities. Never lose your wonder of sunrises and sunsets. There is no technology that can match it.
As you get older, you will discover it is not money that will make you rich – it is the quality of your friendships. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t get a message from someone I don’t know who would like to be my “friend” on one of the social networks. I’m flattered, but I’ll take my friends the old-fashioned way, thank you. True friends will be loyal to you, will celebrate your achievements, help you through the tragedies and kindly overlook your foibles.
There are days I would not have made it without my friends. The poet Emily Dickinson said, “My friends are my estate.” You can go to the bank on that.
Finally, remember to be humble when you have success and resolute when you fail. Always be true to yourself and don’t let anyone else’s opinion of you change who you are.
Most of all, know how much I love you. That is something that hasn’t changed and never will.
Yarbrough is a syndicated columnist from Atlanta. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.