My dear daughters,
I just wanted to say thank you for being my best supporters, my favorite fan club, who no matter how much I mess up, you still love me.
I used to want to prove myself. I’d think about myself a lot. And how I wanted people to see me.
Now I only care how you see me.
I didn’t want anyone to see me before, to tell the truth. But I knew they did see. And I wondered what they saw because I was different. I was quiet and cared about things like light and beauty, truth and love, style and form, art and music. And words. Especially words.
I loved the mystery of how words could turn and change things in your mind. How they could make sound in your mind and tell you what someone was thinking without any noise at all.
I loved how books could invite you into the most intimate places. But until I had daughters, I didn’t know you could know someone so intimately and passionately without ever having met them.
And then I became a dad, your dad. Not just any dad, but yours. And that honestly makes me feel so crazy blessed by God, like the luckiest guy in the world. And you know your mom feels the same.
You’re our favorite thing to talk about, how amazing you are. And that’s not our doing, it’s just you being you. I don’t know why you are so good and always do what you’re supposed to. I was never like that.
And I don’t know if you feel this way yet but so much of life seems like, “Do all your work, help everyone you can, and go to bed when you’re told.”
But you need to know it isn’t just because it’s the rules.
It’s the difference between living well and living poorly. It’s about making that an attitude. The attitude you live by. And I used to think it was a parent that taught that to kids. But you’ve taught me that as much as anyone ever has, it’s the kids who teach adults.
It’s a difference of perspective, a choice of perception. You can’t choose all your circumstances. But you can always choose your response.
Recently, a realization about this has been brewing.
I think you’ve taught me the real difference between entitlement and gratitude.
See, I think gratitude goes in the place inside where entitlement could if you let it. And it’ll come out in what you do because it’s about what you believe. A lot of people believe they’re entitled to things and that makes them behave badly.
You don’t have that. You don’t expect anything. Sometimes I wish you did because it breaks my heart that you wouldn’t have everything you could ever want.
But this is the trouble with adults, not kids. Kids don’t need much of anything. You get older and you start thinking you need everything and more.
Religious folks. Racist folks. Political folks. People think they’re owed something simply for living.
This is the trouble with rich folks and poor folks. This is the trouble with prejudiced folks of every kind.
When someone thinks they’re entitled to certain things or think they have rights to something, they get an attitude. People are treated unfairly, they expect people to treat them better because of it. They do something special and expect to be praised or rewarded for it. And if that doesn’t happen, they get angry.
But I look at you and how whatever you go through, you never act like that, never expect anything. If I mess up, you don’t make me pay for it or demand I get punished. And it makes me want to punish myself and never, ever get short with you again.
I want to remember how hard it is to be a kid and realize you get demanded of all the time and you go through so much for our sake. How can I expect you to bow to me like I’m a king and you’re a country I’m blessing with my patronage? That’s on me.
That’s my sin, like the original sin of believing we were entitled to more than God gave us.
So here’s what I’m thinking: I don’t ever want to control you or take away that essential freedom that’s yours. Because I think maybe entitlement like that is at the root of all our problems in this world.
Entitlement is the poison, gratitude is the antidote. And I want to trade the disease for the cure.
You can either take or you can give. You can take offense at how you’ve been treated, or you can give, forgive, and choose what you already know, that it’s always better to give than receive.
Whatever anyone tells you, your freedom is always that you can choose this and be grateful.
And if you’ll let me express my embarrassing gratitude to you from time to time, I think it’ll help keep me safe from thinking I deserve any better.
Because I look in your eyes and know: I already have the best.
Thank you, thank you.
With all my heart,