My Dear Children,
Life is precious. Since it could end at any time, I have chosen to communicate some sentiments to you in writing so that if ever they become a source of comfort or encouragement to you, you might be able to go back and review them. My intention is to write to you frequently, as I have much to communicate, the most significant of which is that I love you. Each one of you were anticipated with joy and nurtured in love to the best of your feeble parents’ abilities. When I made a commitment to your mother, I also committed unconditionally to each of you. You were loved before you were conceived. I do not like to differentiate between natural and adopted children, but in this context it may be appropriate. I want you all to know that you were loved before you believed it or knew it.
In bearing and raising children, we had certain hopes and intentions. We wanted our children to be intelligent and bright, loving and kind, good and virtuous. We wanted our children to have a sense of purpose. We try to influence you in pursuing your purpose, but despite our roles in bringing you into this world, your life is God’s unique gift to you, so find your purpose in solemnity yourselves. I hope that you’ll be a fountain of good in the earth, in whatever ways God has uniquely endowed you.
Being your dad has been a great joy. I have loved playing blocks with you on the floor, holding you on my lap and finding animals together in children’s books, and watching your minds and bodies grow. I have enjoyed passing my love for truth onto you and teaching you of the toxic nature of lies. I have loved watching you choose good over evil. I have cherished the drawings of you holding my hand. I have savored the mud pies. I have relished watching you beat me in games of strategy. I have enjoyed watching you get jobs and checking accounts and learning how to responsibly manage money. I have loved watching you develop your talents. I have loved watching you enjoy the bliss of childhood. You have managed to find fodder for your imaginations despite the little that I have provided.
In accepting the responsibility of parenting, I have also experienced many sorrows. They have exclusively been the regret of not serving you better. I’m not talking about spoiling you. I’m talking about not reading you more bedtime stories, not singing more lullabies, and not reciting more Shakespeare to you. I’m talking about failing to teach you foreign languages and mathematics. I’m sorry for coming home from work after you’re already in bed, or for being too tired to play catch with you. I’m sorry for not getting my hands in the dirt with you more often. (Be warned, however, that this may change since I’m getting very frustrated with the drip irrigation system; we’ll be digging furrows soon.) It’s been a great sorrow to me that the financial responsibilities of providing for you have interfered with the personal responsibilities–the joys. I hope that I have at least planted in you a spark for learning that will grow into an unquenchable flame. I hope that you will continue to improve on me.
So let’s move forward. I’d like to propose a concept for you to consider in your future lives, namely that questions are more important than answers. This is aptly demonstrated by considering practically any answer. Answer: fungus. As an answer, that doesn’t mean much. It doesn’t empower you to do anything, really. Without the question, the answer floats in a void. Question: what is killing these bacterial staphylococci colonies? Alexander Fleming asked this question in 1928. Even without an answer, this question is meaningful. Staph and other infections killed more soldiers than bullets did. It was a major problem. The question led to years of inquiry and the discovery of penicillin, among many other antibiotics, which was a major advancement in human health.
Ask questions, my children. Ask lots of questions. Be wary of answers that people are eager to give you. You will find that the world is full of people peddling answers. Most of them are garbage. Meaningful answers rarely come easily. In a sense, Alexander Fleming discovered the bio-inhibiting properties of the Penicillium fungus by accident (one of his cultures had been accidentally contaminated), but prior to that, he had studied extensively, developed research skills, and operated a lab. Even after the accidental discovery, he and many others spent years working to mass-cultivate the fungus and isolate the specific antibiotic compound. Fortunately, “by D-Day in 1944, enough penicillin had been produced to treat all the wounded in the Allied forces” (wikipedia). It required extensive knowledge, several research labs, and an additional sixteen years to save those wounded soldiers.
Questions are more important than answers. Ask some deep questions and dig deep for the answers, but take plenty of time to read bedtime stories and sing lullabies to your babies. The wonders of the universe are intriguing, but childhood is the greatest wonder of them all.
Photo credit: Lisa Dockstader.
The background image was taken from here.