What would I tell my children if I knew I didn't have long to live?
I've often wondered what lasting bits of advice could I leave my children that would make a difference in their lives, but just as importantly, the lives of others.
When I reached the age of 40, I began to notice a few things differently. I no longer could move and run as fast as I could before. Suddenly there were new aches and small pains I'd never had before and they seemed to last longer. Then a decade later, I found the aches and pains were becoming constant companions, relieved only for the duration of the over the counter medications I began to ingest. Time, truly had become my enemy. With that thought I began to realize my mortality was as real as anything else I'd ever experienced. I needed to do something(s) and I needed to do them in a hurry. Yes, I am no longer bullet proof!
I'd wanted to write for years. Now my opportunity seemed ever closer yet slipping away by the day. I needed to act now. So, here goes.
Live an honorable life.
Basically, think of it this way; Live your life so the preacher won't have to lie when he preaches your funeral. Do the right thing, every time you can. Go out of your way to make someone else have an easier time. The rewards will always be worth it.
Don't worry about who gets the credit.
Do what needs to be done, before hand whenever possible. Don't wait for others to ask, or even worse to tell you to do something you know needs to be done, if it is at all within your power. When you do it, try to be as inconspicuous and anonymous as possible. You'll come away with a healthier attitude knowing something others don't, and it's not necessary to share the information that you did it.
Learn everything you can about everything.
There's no substitute for education in any situation. I've come to understand that just because I have a college degree doesn't mean I really know much of anything. It looks good on a resume' but in reality life is an ongoing learning process. If you're not learning, you're back tracking. The old adage "what you don't use you lose" is more than apropos for just about every situation in life. When you don't know something, don't be afraid to ask, but when you ask, make sure you learn. Take notes if you need to. No one's going to fault you for making sure you understand and remember what someone else took the time to help you with.
Whatever your passion is, read about it. Stay current. Even if it's ancient history, you may become an expert on a subject, but you'll never know it all and the only way to continue to learn is to read everything you can on the subject of your interests. Don't limit yourself to this one area. Read things that you're not even really interested in. You may come away with a different perspective, or better understand why you feel the way you do about that particular subject.
There is a reason God created human beings with two ears and only one mouth. We have twice the capacity to hear and understand that which is presented to us. When you're talking, you're expressing your opinion about something you may or may not fully understand. Abraham Lincoln once said something to the effect that "it's better to remain silent and be considered a fool, than to speak, just once, and forever remove all doubt". Have you ever noticed when you sing along with the radio, you're not really enhancing the song? There's nothing wrong with expressing yourself through song, but if you're so great, why are the recording artists the one's receiving the royalty checks and you're the one singing off key? (If you don't believe me, the next time you're going to "sing along" cover just one ear and listen to yourself, to see if you can carry the key and pitch as perfectly as the professional).
Never forget where you came from.
You may have come from humble beginnings and climbed the ladders of success to a status others can't even imagine, but the heights you reach could've only been obtained while you stood on the broad shoulders of someone who had the strength, and more importantly, grace to allow you there, while they remained the silent and most often unpaid supporter of your dream. Your family may be your heritage, but what you become will always be a direct reflection of a relation who loved you when you were oft times unlovable and unable to see your own faults.
Give until it hurts and then give a little more.
If you look at any American coinage or paper money you will, thankfully, still find the words "In God We Trust" engraved or printed on each denomination. If this is true, and I whole heartedly believe it to be so, then no matter how long, and hard, you worked for this money it's not really yours anyway and if you truly trust in God with and for this money, it must belong to Him! You are only a temporary steward of the money and you have the controlling power to use it wisely. If you don't, you won't have it long. How many times have you purchased something, or just blown your money, and shortly after in a time of real need regretted your philandering? Give the money to those who are in need and make sure you don't short them in your giving. If you hold a dollar in a clenched fist, refusing to let it go, God can't fill your palm with another dollar because there is no opening to receive anything else. Money can be a powerful thing but only if used wisely. You don't give to get, you get to give.
Send an occasional hand written letter of encouragement.
If you've had someone on your mind stop and send them a quick note letting them know of your appreciation for their friendship. I've found there's usually a reason you've been thinking about them and they'll appreciate the support.
Support our country's military men and women.
Even if you don't support a current military action, remember there are men and women from every corner of society, living on wages comparative to poverty, who literally fight and die every day for you to enjoy the freedom of our great country. These are individuals who were not forced into action, but signed willing on the dotted line to protect and defend our country, the constitution and every person within the confines of the United States of America. You owe them - big time! Shake their hand when you see them in uniform in public. Tell them you appreciate the sacrifices of family, time and all too often life. Be genuine in doing so. They deserve it and so much more.
If you don't like the way things are going in our country, you're of voting age now, do something about it. Go to the polls and let your voice be heard. Become active in your community. I once heard of a man who went down and had 8X10 color photos of himself taken, printed and mailed to his congressman with an attachment introducing himself. In his letter he then proceeded to remind the congressman that he, the congressman, worked for him, the citizen. I think that needs to be done a lot more often and with more force. Regarding American politics, I've never seen an eagle that could soar on one wing. By that I mean it takes the genuine heart felt application of both parties working together, for the good of the greater cause. No one person, nor party has all the right answers. But if you don't become involved at some level you're bound to accept what our "leaders" give you. If you're going to be led, at least have a say so in who you're leader is and where you want to go.
Too much to say in one missive, but the intentions of my heart are pure and whole. Learn from great quotations and hold them in your heart and mind. I could quote you scripture, chapter and verse, but at times like these the heart of a father must be heard and understood for what it feels, knows and sees to ensure the success of his children in the days to come.
I love you,