A letter’s reminder

person holding handwritten letter

Photo by Bryan Schneider on Pexels.com

January has been clean up month.

Here at Mama’s Empty Nest, there has been much ado about everything. Since Middle Daughter and Little One moved into their own little cottage on New Year’s Day, this mama has accelerated into high gear.

Actually, both Papa’s and my engines have been running in high gear for about eight weeks helping our daughter refurbish her new home.  I understand now the work it takes to flip a house and I’m not being flippant about it.

But now, it’s my turn to get my own home ship-shape, squared away, and back in order. With daughter’s furniture and belongings moved out, our house is less crowded and to be honest, less messy. 

This newfound free space has inspired me to clean up, clean out, and purge. Two empty bedrooms needed attention and some furniture rearranged back into those rooms. Closets, cupboards, kitchen pantry all needed cleared out and re-organized.

I’m on a mission. Search and destroy. Search and relocate. Search and donate. Search and label for a spring/summer garage sale.

During one of my search operations, I tackled the closet in what used to be our son’s bedroom – now a guest room. We managed to dump deliver most of his belongings to him quite a while ago, but still some items remained – things he did not want or need at age 30. Stuff I should have taken care of long ago but put off until later.

Well, now is later. Time to sift through it all – everything from a microscope set he received one Christmas (used once) to a Star Wars model (never put together) to stories he’d written in elementary and high school, college notebooks, a box of trinkets, a box of stuffed animals including several versions of Taz (his once favorite cartoon character).

And as if that wasn’t enough, an assortment of his sisters’ Christmas formal and prom gowns hung in that closet as well.  I also realized that a scrapbook and assorted  accoutrements which I once planned using to chronicle our son’s school years accomplishments also sat dusty on one of the shelves. Since Son graduated from college nine years ago, it’s past time to get that project finished.

While sorting through all of this, I discovered something that made me stop, sit down, and take time to read. It was a letter. A hand-written letter that my son received upon his high school graduation.

The letter was from a young man, one any parent would approve of, who had been our oldest daughter’s high school boyfriend years before.  Respectful, polite, all-around wonderful young fellow of good character and an excellent student graduating as valedictorian of their high school class.  

Upon graduation, our daughter and this young man headed off to separate colleges and they amiably parted ways remaining friends. Actually, our entire family kept in touch with him and we cheered for his accomplishments when he graduated from college at the top of his class once again.

Suffice it to say, this young man had been an excellent role model and made a lasting impression on our son, who was just a 6th grader at the time our daughter dated that boyfriend. I remember Son telling me he wanted to be like this young man and graduate from high school at the top of his class too.

And he did so. Our son was also valedictorian of his class. He set out to accomplish that goal and followed in this friend’s footsteps.  That friend attended our son’s graduation ceremony and it seemed only right that we invite our son’s role model to his graduation party.

When our son wrote a thank you note to this friend for a graduation gift, Son received a handwritten letter back from the young man, now heading off to medical school.

That handwritten letter I found in the closet.

I decided what’s written should be shared because it’s a perfect example of how a handwritten letter can be such a treasure, even when read many years later.

“It really means a lot to me that I was able to have that type of influence on you. I always knew you had potential, and I’m glad to see you are putting it to good use. Although I’m probably not the best person to take advice from, I wanted to offer you a couple of tips heading into college. I was in a similar situation to yours entering college – graduating as valedictorian does put a little pressure on you to achieve at the next level. I certainly felt it. Since bulleted lists tend to get the point across, I’ll use those:

  • When I started at (his university), people told me no one graduates with all A’s, but R (a friend) and I did it and were co-valedictorians in college. So, don’t believe everything you hear.
  • Challenge yourself with classes outside your comfort areas. This is one thing I wish I would have done more of. I took an upper-level sociology class my junior year – worked hard as heck but it ended up being one of my favorite classes.
  • If you’ve studied all week for an exam and someone offers you the chance to go to a Penguins game the night before, go to the game.
  • Earn the respect of your professors – there are several I still e-mail and meet up with because we ended up being good friends.
  • Don’t try the chicken-fried pork.
  • Try to make it to at least one type of every sporting event.
  • Don’t be afraid to say no to beer if you end up at a party.
  • Get involved in a few clubs to make new friends.
  • Finally, don’t be afraid to take hard classes, to try something new, to tell someone no, to make a big mistake. You learn from every experience.

So, there’s your nickel’s worth of free advice. I sincerely wish you the best of luck in school, in life, and in your future. Take care, buddy.”

I’m happy and proud to say that both of these young men – Son and Friend – have become mature, successful professionals – one a doctor, one a mechanical engineer. But I’m even more pleased and thankful that they both succeeded in personal life by becoming thoughtful, caring men of excellent character, loving husbands and fathers, good role models for others.

Finding that old letter reminded me how important role models are. I’m thankful that in addition to his father, our son also had a young man to admire and look up to. I wish every young male could have such excellent examples to steer them in the right direction, influencing them positively,  making a lasting difference.

It’s something I think our current day society truly lacks. My hope is that more men would realize that and strive to become good role models for young boys and other young men. It’s time to set positive examples.

“Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others; it is the only means.” ~Albert Einstein

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