Letter to My Worried 20 Year-Old Son
Hi Sweet Man:
I’m so glad you called me last night. I’m sorry if I sounded a little groggy. I had just gone to bed and was drifting off.
I’m so grateful that you and I have the kind of relationship where you can call me when you are afraid. That says a lot I think…about you…about me.
But since you are in New York City and I am at my usual place in the coffee shop where I do a lot of my work, I thought it might be a good idea to just write you a letter.
The world can be a scary place. It’s just part of living in it. I’ve been scared a lot. I think people like us who feel “stuff” get scared more easily. We feel before we think and sometimes that gets us in trouble.
But you know, Hank…it’s also our gift. People feel safe with us.
I’ve learned a lot in my life and as I look at my own fear with the current state of the world, I have come to a few revelations that I think may help you with yours. So…here goes…
1. Accept the fact that you feel helpless and really, really scared about the current course of human events This is perfectly normal and absolutely natural in response to what’s happening; But also remember that you are important, because you were born. You have an essential role in the universe. You were chosen to be here. Never ever forget that, son. You have a purpose.
2. Even though at times, you may feel small and powerless, you possess more power than you can possibly imagine. You have the capacity to change the world with each and every encounter you have. It’s true. You have the power to positively influence all those with whom you come into contact, which on any given day can be literally hundreds and hundreds of people. People who remember this…are the ones who change the world. Sometimes they are famous and sometimes they are not. Sometimes they are rich and sometimes they are not. But the people who remember this, change the world and are remembered for doing so. Be that person.
3. Even though it can be scary to admit you’ve made mistakes or that you’ve been wrong, you are free with me and those who love you to admit them. You are wonderfully human Hank…complete with your own story, your own journey and your own experiences. When appropriate share your story and your feelings. Share your mistakes and your fears. When you are vulnerable, your secrets no longer own you. You become free and in the process show others the way.
4. I know the internet can be scary…there is so much anger, violence and fear there… that can get in the way of interacting with what’s real. Be intentional with how you use it. Set it aside when you feel fear and look to the beauty and wonder around you. Talk to someone. Touch something that is real. Smell a flower. Eat something good. Go for a run. Make art. Dance. Hold someone’s hand. Cry hard at sunsets. Laugh with your friends. The world is not nearly as scary when we take time to be in it.
5. It’s so easy right now to be afraid of “them.” But my experience has been that we have a lot more in common with others than we realize. We all hurt, cry, laugh and love. We all want to be seen, heard and know we matter. Look to those around you and realize this. Assume positive intent when you see another person and assume that they come to you in the same way. Smile. Wave. Open your heart.
6. Take time to be still. Watch the trees sway in the wind. Feel the rain on your skin. Be still and know that there is a power greater than yourself. See it in nature, the sound of the traffic, the changing of the stoplight. This force is conspiring in your favor…at all times. Name it for yourself and call it to you when you are afraid.
7. Give up needing to be right every once in a while. Watch what happens. It’s like magic. There is nothing to resist and nothing that resists you. The world needs safe places for people to feel right…without resistance. So be that. Be a safe place for someone to get out their fear and anger…to express themselves…to discover themselves. Every moment you provide safety for another, is another moment the world sings.
8. Don’t postpone your joy, son. Don’t postpone it! Yes…it is hard to feel it with so much pain and suffering in the world. It is so easy to feel the burden of the world on your shoulders, but watch the children. Watch them dance, sing, laugh, skip. Joy is essential to the well being of those around you. Be joyful. Seek Joy. Bring Joy. Joy heals. If you can’t find it, go be with the children.
9. And Love. Love even when you don’t want to. Push back your shoulders, physically open up your ribcage and walk through the New York streets being love. Let love pour out of your mouth, your eyes, your stride and the very essence of you. The world needs you to be love and light and wonder and joy. Because of all the things I’ve learned, lived and experienced I know one thing for sure. As a matter of fact it is for me, an absolute truth.
Fear cannot live where there is love. So be that. Be love.
You got this Hank. You got this. Please feel free to come home anytime you need to be reminded of these things. You are safe with me always.