Some advice for a newly-arrived great-grandson


Dear Samuel Knox Wansley:

Welcome! You are my seventh great-grandchild and the fourth male in my growing family tree. However, I suspect that is of little importance to you at this point. I have the notion that having arrived only a couple of weeks ago, you are more interested in sleep and sustenance than in your ranking. Besides, as you will soon learn, all seven of you are ranked Number One.

I am sorry to start this correspondence off on a negative note, but the world into which you have come is in pretty poor shape these days. Those of us who preceded you here haven’t done a very good job taking care of it. In fact, we have probably made things worse. And that is my reason for writing you.

There is an ancient Chinese proverb that states, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” meaning that the longest and most difficult of undertakings must begin with a first step. Making this a better world will require you to take that step and many more. I hope — no, I pray — that you and your generation will make that journey. It won’t be easy.

Human beings don’t come into the world innately knowing how to hate or with a predetermined prejudice against other human beings because of how they look or worship or choose to live their lives. You have to learn to be mean, to be hurtful, to be judgmental. These are traits that are taught by those of us who didn’t learn those lessons ourselves.

Fortunately, you will be raised in a home, along with your two brothers, where those kinds of attitudes are not acceptable. You chose your parents wisely. They are kind and considerate and of strong character. They will teach you well. That means you will experience a lot of love. That is very important. If you love, you can’t hate. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But it’s not. Love is also a learned behavior.

Before I get off the subject of love, it is a strength, not a weakness. And it is hard to love others if you don’t feel good about yourself. I am not talking about self-conceit or arrogance. I’m talking about an inner peace that comes from knowing yourself and accepting who you are for what you are. Don’t let others define you. You are a unique individual.

That leads to your value system: What will be important to you and what will not? There is a term known as 4F used to identify those that do not qualify for military service. I have a different definition of 4F I would ask that you make a cornerstone of your life: Faith. Family. Friends. Forgiveness.

Faith is belief in a higher power, a Supreme Being. This universe and this planet in which it exists are not a random thing. There is a God. I believe that with all my heart and I hope you will, too. But faith is different from organized religion, which is man-made and too often shows its man-made biases. Don’t let anyone tell you their way of worshipping is the right way or the only way. Keep your faith between you and God.

Family is the glue that holds it all together. Thank goodness, you find yourself in a stable and loving family. Not every newborn is that lucky. The traditional family structure has changed dramatically over the years and not necessarily for the better. Many of society’s problems today can be traced back to poor parenting. Consider yourself very fortunate.

You will make many friends in the years to come. Choose them wisely and make sure you don’t let them influence you to behavior that you know in your heart is wrong. Never sully your good name. That is your reputation. Lose it and it will be difficult to ever get it back.

Finally, learn to forgive. It took me a long time to understand that lesson. I could hold a grudge with the best of them but now that I am in the twilight of my life, I ask myself, why? What purpose does it serve? Life is too short, no matter how long you live, to carry around personal grievances. So, what do you do? You love and forgive. Not only does it make you a bigger person, it is bound to confound your enemies. In short, love everybody as we love you. And we do. Welcome to our world. PA

You can reach Dick Yarbrough at or at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139.