Rev. Dr. Joel Mitchell, Pastor
11024 S. Bell Avenue
Chicago, IL 60643
Reflection May 21, 2017
For Daphne: Who Soon Will Be Three
Rev. Dr. Thomas Aldworth
Dear Daphne: it’s with great joy that I write to you on the eve of your third birthday on May 22. As I’ve mentioned in the past, as your grandfather, I hope to write to you for your birthday each year as long as I am able.
I’m not sure what advice I can give you that would be of lasting value. I’m uncertain what grandfatherly wisdom I might possess. But I feel moved to share something each year that may be of some small significance when you grow into your own maturity.
Life is a mystifying mix of the good and the bad. Bad things happen to good people. Good things happen to bad people. It’s still important to choose goodness over badness. Bad people may seem to unfairly prosper, but badness damages the core of the human person. Badness is corrosive to the human spirit. Goodness, especially kindness, nourishes what is best in each of us.
Daphne, it’s not easy understanding the complex mix of emotions swirling within everyone, yourself included. Emotional intelligence, the awareness of one’s own emotions and some understanding of other’s emotions can be of great help in navigating the challenges of life. I’d recommend reading, perhaps in your later high school years, Daniel Goleman’s bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.
Here are some potentially helpful thoughts from Goleman: “you always have choices about how you respond to an emotion, and the more ways you know how to respond … the richer your life can be … A key social ability is empathy, understanding others’ feelings and taking their perspective, and respecting differences in how people feel about things … learn to be a good listener and question-asker … be assertive rather than angry or passive, and learn the arts of cooperation, conflict resolution, and negotiating compromise.”
Daphne, your paternal grandmother, with her rich background in leadership skills, will be very helpful in learning these vital life-skills, along with the good guidance of your loving parents. Family matters more than you can imagine in the shaping of a wonderful and worthwhile life.
Getting along with others is so very important. We are all so frightened of each other. Fear underlies much of what happens in our world. But, Daphne, do not be unduly impressed by intimidation. Bullies abound. Learn how best to respond to them. Ignoring them helps but sometimes one must defend what needs defending. I touched on this and the need for courage in a letter I wrote to your brother, Clark, when he turned one.
One should never allow oneself to be humiliated. To humiliate another is - I believe - the worst thing we can do. It may help to realize everyone is more confused than they appear to be. Everyone is anxious about what is happening in their lives. We all need comfort and consolation. This is obvious when we are wee ones - but it’s not so obvious when we’re grown.
Daphne, you know you need comfort when you’re scared and when you’re hurt. Your loving parents certainly do all they can to help when you find yourself scared and hurt. Most healthy adults will want to help and comfort a crying child.
Daphne, life is often hard. You’ve already come to understand this truth in your first three years of life. But life is also filled with wonderful experiences and opportunities for learning and growth. To grow always - regardless of age - may be a truly helpful life goal. Learning is fuel for most growth. It’s sad when so many adults give up on life-long learning. When learning ceases, so does almost all good growth.
A final thought for your third birthday is the importance of freedom. Freedom is, for me, the most important and most difficult life goal. Freedom is not about doing what you want. Freedom is not about having your way in all you do. Freedom is, ultimately, about becoming who you are at your deepest core.
Freedom is not easy to achieve. It’s not easy because there are so many people, institutions, cultural influences constantly competing to take away one’s freedom - to take away one’s right to decide what’s best. Freedom also underlies one’s right to be wrong!
Naturally, Daphne, you need to be under the care and guidance of your parents until you become fully grown. This is as it should be. But when you are grown, don’t let others compromise your freedom.
Don’t let others diminish your freedom through deceit or duplicity. Any freedom given away is nigh unto impossible to regain. Never accept any form of slavery. Live in the freedom of who you are. Live in the freedom of who you are in the process of becoming. Always choose freedom.
Daphne, I love you. I cherish you. You delight my heart. You delight my soul. You are a great gift to me and to our world. Blessings to you and all your family from your grateful grandfather Tom.