Dear Cameron Charles Yarbrough:
As has been my custom this time of year, I was about to impart some of an old man’s wisdom to my one and only great-grandson, but there has been a new development. Henry Sanford Wansley decided to make an appearance. (And on New Year’s Day!) Two great-grandsons. Too good to be true – but it is.
As of this writing, I have not yet met Henry, but I hope to rectify that situation soon. Here’s hoping he likes what he sees. Like it or not, he is stuck with me. I come with the family.
Let me start with a caveat: Great-grandparents are located down the food chain, behind parents and grandparents. Even after all these years, I am still not sure what my role is supposed to be. I hope I am not considered competition, but I have lived longer, experienced more and age has given me a perspective they do not yet have. Plus, I helped raise two of the grandparents. That alone gives me primacy in the advice-dispensing department.
Cameron, you have 10-year head start on your cousin, Henry. Chances are I won’t be around long enough to see how either of you turn out, but I hope you will be as good a role model for him as I have tried to be for you. I feel confident he will do just fine. He is growing up in a family with a lot of love in it. That is important. Without people to love you and care about you, this world can be an ugly, cruel place.
In the meantime, may Henry Sanford Wansley look at you and admire what he sees, that you have made good choices in your life. Good choices are not always easy choices. Sometimes, that means you must go against the grain. That can take a lot of courage. Don’t let small-minded people pull you down to their level. Try to bring them up to yours.
Let Henry see that you talk softly but that you mean what you say. Don’t brag. Leave the hyperbole for the television ads. Don’t exaggerate trying to make folks think you are something or somebody that you are not. Instead, show them who you are by how you live your life and live it to the best of your considerable abilities – and quietly.
Learn what you can control and what you can’t. You can’t change what happened yesterday — although you can learn from it — and you have no idea what tomorrow will bring or even if there will be a tomorrow. Don’t waste this precious day grinding over something that you won’t even remember a year from now. If it is within your power to change something for the better, do it. If not, let it go.
When fate deals you a blow, deal with it courageously and tenaciously. Nobody ever said life was fair. Whatever you do, don’t whine. I can’t recall whining ever solving a problem. It is just an excuse for a self-pity party and, hopefully, you will be too busy doing good things to even think of whining.
Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. Mistakes are a great learning tool. They keep us humble and remind us that we are human. Just try and not make the same mistake twice.
Don’t be arrogant but feel good about yourself. People’s opinions can be important but don’t be governed by what others think of you. They don’t know you as well as you know yourself. You are God’s creation. Rejoice in it and be exceedingly glad.
Don’t rationalize bad behavior. Your mind can come up with all kinds of explanations for a lapse in good judgement, but not your gut. Deep down inside, you know what is right and what is wrong. Trust your gut.
Whatever you do, Cameron Charles Yarbrough, be the best you can be in all that you do. Don’t accept mediocrity. Strive for excellence. Don’t be afraid of big dreams. A wise man once wrote these words: “You see things and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were and I say, ‘Why not?’” Why not, indeed?
In the meantime, let us both celebrate the new life of Henry Sanford Wansley. In his first few days on this Earth, he has already taught me an important lesson: You don’t have to divide your love between your great-grandsons. You simply multiply it. And that I have done.