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  • Writer's pictureJoel Elliott Mooneyhan

To My Future Son or Daughter

This week, I turned 40 years old. For a while, 40 will seem old to you, and then one day you'll be 40 and you won't think that anymore. I am older now than either of my parents were by the time I was born. There was a time when I thought I'd already have children by now; you'll learn as I have that there is no schedule to live your life by.

I've tried over the years to write to you and share little bits of wisdom or knowledge in case I forget them along the way. There's a journal with a lot more of it, but this particular piece will have a wider audience, just in case any of it might mean something to others. I don't feel as wise or knowledgeable as the heroes in my life, but maybe in my own way I have something valuable to share. So on this, the week of my 40th birthday, here are a few things that your 40 year old Dad hopes that you remember.

  • Call your Mom. When you’re little, she’ll be the first person you call, just about every time you need something. And your Mom is an amazing Mom, so she is going to answer you with love and devotion. But as you get older and more independent, always remember the love and care she shows for you. When you’re out on your own, call her and tell her you love her. Let her know you are thinking about her. Let her know you appreciate all the ways that she showed you love and all the ways she put your needs above hers (she did it a lot). You’ll be glad you did, I promise.

  • Learn about your grandparents. You come from the lines of some amazing people, both on your Mom’s side of the family and mine. Your Grandparents are incredible—strong, faithful, loving, devoted. They have stories you will love to hear, stories to learn from and stories to retell to others. Never pass up an opportunity to hear from them and the worlds and times they came from. The world is so different now than it was when they were young, and the perspective you get from their stories will serve you well for the rest of your life.

  • Stay close to your brothers and sisters. You’re going to drive each other crazy, probably more than once. You’ll grow past that. Remember that you share a great family and a great heritage together. Learn to love one another, even when you get on each other’s nerves. One day, a long time from now, you will have to make a conscious effort to stay in touch and feel like family to one another. Be sure you do; one day, it will be more valuable than you can ever imagine.

  • Keep in touch with your friends. When you’re in school, whether it’s elementary all the way up to college, you’ll see and talk to your friends on a daily basis. You’ll go your separate ways, sometimes you’ll end up near each other, other times you won’t. Even when you do, you will be surprised at how hard it is to get together once you start living life on your own terms. Don’t forget to keep each other’s addresses and phone numbers and every so often, call or write, even when you can’t hang out like you did when you were young.

  • Learn to make friends. Nothing does it better than a simple, direct introduction with a good handshake. You may be shy, you may be outgoing—so this may seem easy or it may be the most frightening thing you can imagine. Either way, this is an important life skill. If you see someone you want to know, introduce yourself. Be confident in who you are and what you bring to any friendship, and be aware of what others can bring as well. Friends can be as close as family given enough time and experience. Make them, keep them, and be on the lookout for them.

  • Stretch everyday, physically and mentally. As a kid, you’ll be limber and fast and strong and energetic, and it will never occur to you that your body will one day start slowing down, whether you feel like it should or not. One way to get more mileage? Stretch. Stretch your back, your legs, your shoulders, your neck. Stay loose. Your strength will only get you so far; if you stay flexible, your strength will get you further. This is true not just for your body, but for your mind. Read, study, have conversations with people who you can learn from, try new things, learn new skills. Stay flexible.

  • Keep an open mind, but make sure it has a lid. You’ll hear people go on and on and on about keeping an open mind. If you pay attention, you’ll see that a lot of the people who go on about this the most are the ones who open their minds the least. Having said that, it is important to keep an open mind simply for the sake of checking your own perspective and learning the perspectives of others. But that doesn’t mean you must always take in everything you hear from everyone who says something, every time you hear it. Have an open mind, but don’t forget the lid. There are some things it is better to keep out of your head, and the point of open mind is the same as an open door—to let in what is good and to keep out what is not.

  • Take a walk. Get outside. Look up at the sky, listen to the sound of creation. There are a lot of distractions you’ll encounter, and there will always be something to do, a list to check off, a task to accomplish. Learn when to put those things aside, even if only for a few minutes, and allow yourself the space to have peace and quiet. Being outside gives you fresh air, sunshine, exercise, and it reminds you of just how beautiful the world is—and it is a very beautiful place. Sometimes you may just need the reminder.

  • Learn about Jesus. You’ll be raised going to church with your Mom and me, and we will do our best to help you learn what the Christian faith is, what it means, and why it is important to us. I promise to do it with grace, I promise it won't be a burden, and I promise that you may come to us with any questions, no matter how silly or serious, and we will take the time to listen and work through to find the answers together. One day, you’ll have to make some decisions about what the Christian faith means to you on your own. At that point, all I will say is this: learn as much as you can about Jesus, what Jesus taught, how Jesus treated others, and what Jesus expects of those who follow Him. It will change your life every single day. Whatever else you learn from me or forget I ever said, at least remember this.

You will never be outside my love and care for you, no matter what you do or say, no matter how old you are, I will be here for you. I will celebrate when you celebrate, I will weep when you weep, I will move Heaven and Earth for you, and you will always be my Son or Daughter.

So above all else, remember that I love you.

Love, Dad.


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