For Alistair, On Your Birthday…

Hey Buddy,

You’re three now. That means lots of things, not the least of which is your continued education regarding toilet hygiene…gotta perfect the potty, dude.

But for your dad here it also means you’re getting too big pretty fast. I’m impressed by your brains…only 3 year old I know who loves puzzles and games like you do. And while I’m not impressed by your temper, we’ll eventually learn to harness that for the good of the world.

But even though you’re only three, I want to clue you into some truths that I think you should know, and that even adults often forget. Ready?

You’re beautiful and broken. Like we all are. You don’t need a trophy for just existing, but know that I’m proud of you every time you really try, especially when you try stuff you’re not good at and keep with it. You don’t have to be perfect, just try to be present. And you never deserve better than anyone else, but you never deserve to put up with crap, either. Love others and love yourself and get out on the field. Got it?

Speaking of sports metaphors: the world needs compassionate people more than it needs athletes. Not that you can’t be both, but if you asked me today what I hope for you it would be, more than anything, that you are kind. This broken world needs healers, not winners. Because when you heal, everyone wins.

Also: you get to be yourself, buddy. Other than respectful and kind and loving, I want you to let your creative self run wild in this world. I’m not always gonna love your hair color, but good on you for using it while you have it (a mistake I made).

But don’t get all worked up about your looks. Love your body, but don’t worship it…no one else is.

Don’t let your ego run away with your heart.

Don’t let your brains run away with your sense of humor.

Crude jokes don’t make you funny.

Sit beside people sitting by themselves. They often make the best friends.

The only person you can make fun of is yourself. Everyone else is off limits. And don’t make friends with people who make fun of others…eventually they will make fun of you.

Feel the feels, but don’t always let your emotions plot the journey. Center yourself, big guy, in a love that is bigger than yourself, in a peace that permeates all things.

Addiction runs in the family, so guard yourself on excesses. The world will not help you here…it will always push you toward more of most everything. But none of it will make you better, only blurrier or bigger or badder or madder.

Pray with your shoes on. Be willing to be the answer to people’s prayers, and be willing to do the work to get to the places where the need is great.

Vote your heart and your conscience. Don’t fall for Party traps and false dichotomies. Pay attention to how the candidates look after the least of these in society. And if no one is looking after them, you should…and then run for office.

Oh: and any candidate who claims to be “Christian” is probably just after a vote. Be wary of people who fly that flag too high.

Half-priced hang-gliding lessons aren’t worth the savings. Just remember that.

Give your life away continually to things that are deserving of it: good causes, loving people, a life of service, a partner or family.

But then again, don’t think that you need to get married and have kids to live a full life. Plenty of things in this world deserve our hearts, so don’t fold to the status quo of societal pressures.

Oh, that reminds me: the status isn’t quo. Make that your mantra.

Today you’re three. Tomorrow you’re thirty. I know how this works. So I’m going to start telling you all this now in the hopes that you might learn it all early.

And always remember: I am glad you exist.