Dear Cameron Charles Yarbrough:
For the past 15 years, I have taken the opportunity at the beginning of the New Year to share some advice - first with your dad and his cousins and now with you, my great-grandson.
I hope you don't mind and will bear with me. You would probably rather be playing with your Legos and I understand that, but maybe something in this letter might make a difference in your life in years to come. I pray that will be so.
You are full of optimism about the world right now, as well you should be. You are loved by a lot of people. I can think of no greater gift you could have received in your six years on this earth than unconditional, unrequited love from your extended family. Sadly, not all children are so blessed. You are one of the lucky ones.
You have repaid our love many times over by loving us in return. It doesn't get much better than being on the receiving end of one of your spontaneous hugs.
Each one has been special. Thank you. Hugs never go out of style, by the way. Always hug those you love. Real men aren't afraid to hug.
I sense you are watching us every day to see if we walk our talk. It is one thing to be told what is right and what is not, but you can tell quickly if we are applying the same rules to our own lives. Our actions speak louder than our words. Listen to what we say, but watch what we do. If we seem to say one thing and do another, ask us why. You deserve an explanation.
As you make your way in the world, know you aren't in this thing by yourself. There is a God. Trust me on this one. I am no theologian, but I know God exists and He is bigger than even the greatest minds on this earth can grasp or describe.
Your faith is between God and you, first and foremost and forever. That requires no explanation or apology from you to anyone. Never stop believing.
I have been greatly impressed with your performance in school thus far in your young life. You are a bright and inquisitive young man who seems eager to learn and I am pleased that you are surrounded by those who understand and appreciate the importance of a good education.
Goodness knows what you will learn and how you will learn it in the coming years. The world seems to be changing at warp speed and it will be incumbent on you and your generation to understand and deal with those changes. Good luck with that.
Finishing your formal education does not mean that you are through learning. Far from it. In fact, a good education is just the starting point in realizing what you don't know. Now comes the difficult part. Life can be hard. Be prepared. I used to think that if I was in charge, everything would turn out fine.
That was not only naïve; that was wrong. There is much in this world we can't control. What we can control is our ability to cope with whatever comes our way.
No matter what happens, never compromise your integrity. Of all your assets, none is more valuable than your good name. Don't besmirch it for expediency's sake. Once you lose your reputation, it is very difficult to get it back and I can think of no risk worth taking the chance.
Be true to yourself. Don't go along with the crowd unless it is a good crowd. Don't do things you know to be wrong simply to gain the approval of your peers. If you are tempted, stop and think about how it would disappoint your family. You can always find other people to hang with. You only have one family.
Whatever you choose to do with your life, do it to the best of your ability. Don't waste a day. Not one. When you don't do your best, you are cheating yourself and those who love you.
You are a special young man and I love you very much. I am proud you carry the family name. You also carry our hopes and dreams for the future. That is an awesome responsibility for a 6-year-old, but I have no doubt you are just the guy who can do it. God bless you.
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org; at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, GA 31139; online at dickyarbrough.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dickyarb.