My dear grandkids,
Your thoughtful parents urged me to write down some advice for you, the important things that I have learned about life. I am beginning this list on the eve of my 72nd birthday.
1. Each one of you is a wonderful gift both to your family and to the world. Remember it always, especially when the cold winds of doubt and discouragement fall upon your life.
2. Be not afraid … of anyone or of anything when it comes to living your life most fully. Pursue your hopes and your dreams no matter how difficult or “different” they may seem to others. Far too many people don’t do what they want or should do because of what they imagine others may think or say. Remember, if they don’t bring you chicken soup when you’re sick or stand by you when you’re in trouble, they don’t matter. Avoid those sour-souled pessimists who listen to your dreams then say, “Yeah, but what if …” The heck with “what if …” Do it! The worst thing in life is to look back and say: “I would have; I could have; I should have.” Take risks, make mistakes.
3. Everyone in the world is just an ordinary person. Some people may wear fancy hats or have big titles or (temporarily) have power and want you to think they are above the rest. Don’t believe them. They have the same doubts, fears, and hopes; they eat, drink and sleep like everyone else. Question authority always but be wise and careful about the way you do it.
4. Make a Life List of all those things you want to do: travel to places; learn a skill; master a language; meet someone special. Make it long and do some things from it every year. Don’t say “I’ll do it tomorrow” (or next month or next year). That is the surest way to fail to do something. There is no tomorrow, and there is no “right” time to begin something except now.
5. Be kind and go out of your way to help people – especially the weak, the fearful, and children. Everyone is carrying a special sorrow, and they need our compassion.
6. Read books, as many as you can. They are a wonderful source of delight, wisdom, and inspiration. They need no batteries or connections, and they can go anywhere.
7. Be truthful.
8. Travel: always but especially when you are young. Don’t wait until you have “enough” money or until everything is “just right.” That never happens. Get your passport today.
9. Pick your job or profession because you love to do it. Sure, there will be some things hard about it, but a job must be a joy. Beware of taking a job for money alone – it will cripple your soul.
10. Don’t yell. It never works, and it hurts both yourself and others. Every time I have yelled, I have failed.
11. Always keep promises to children. Don’t say “we’ll see” when you mean “no”. Children expect the truth; give it to them with love and kindness.
12. Never tell anyone you love them when you don’t.
13. Live in harmony with Nature: go into the outdoors, woods, mountains, sea, desert. It’s important for your soul.
14. Hug people you love. Tell them how much they mean to you now; don’t wait until it’s too late.
15. Be grateful. There is a saying: “This is a day in our lives, and it will not come again.” Live every day with this in mind.