To the town that raised you, the home that shaped you, the family that loves you. To the only place till now you’ve ever known, where you were sheltered and taught and raised to this.
To this leave taking of childhood, this dead sprint to adulthood, the wonders of leaving home and starting a life. From the shaded shelter of the silver maple outside your mother’s door, to the full sun of the desert mountains on your college campus.
This is life, dear girl, and it is yours.
Every conceivable opportunity of existence is before you.
But, then, so too is every pitfall and trap. You have set upon the path to your destiny, the road to glory and joy, and strewn along it are landmines, unseen choices of deliverance or destruction, waiting to ruin what has only begun.
You will see those around you fall. To sloth and addiction, to debauchery and debilitation, to the slavery of habit and the burden of sin. They will break laws and break hearts. They will skip class and sleep late. They will abandon virtue and embrace disease. They will confuse delusion for truth, and trade one for the other, and they will be litter along life’s road, broken and shortchanged, surviving if they do at something far below their potential.
You will see those around you fall.
And you will be one of them if you are not wise.
For there is a commonality to man, in all his billions, and few are truly stronger or weaker than their fellows. But each is alike armed with the power to choose, a sword to swing, in self-defense or self-destruction, at each juncture a decision to be made, a direction to be chosen. It is not left or right, it is up or down. Up to glory or down to destruction.
In the choices of alcohol and tobacco and drugs and sex. In what to take and how seriously to take it. In whom to date and how far to go. In whether to study or play and party. To pay as you go or encumber a debt. To worship as you were raised or to take a holiday from God.
You will set a personal standard for success – or failure. Of finishing or quitting. You will either take advantage of these opportunities, or squander them. And your children and grandchildren will likely live with the consequences of your choices.
And they may echo through your eternities.
Yes, there are landmines all about.
But you are not without direction. And you are not without hope. And if you do what is right, you have every prospect for success.
A success you cannot now imagine or anticipate. A success which will stretch over decades and generations.
You will learn, for life or vocation, things which will empower and beautify. Things which will give you might and grace, which will inform your awe of the universe and your neighbors. Things which you will shout in the forum of your community and whisper in the ears of your children.
You will love, and fall in love. With friends and perhaps a spouse. People you meet in the ebb of adolescence will be your cherished friends in the dusk of life, and the adventures of coming months will be recounted to one another’s children when you and these unmet friends have aged and grayed. Today’s roommates will be tomorrow’s bride’s maids and the next day’s lifelong friends.
You will grow, and become someone new. You will develop certitude and competence, like a tree of the woods, strengthening and towering until others are sheltered in the lee of your growth. You will lead on your job and in your community and in your home, as a boss or an official or a parent. You will go and learn, so that you might go and serve, so that all might be bettered.
That is what is ahead of you.
And those of us who love you are behind you. Even if we are far away.
Even if the beginning of this phase in your life is the end of another phase in ours. Even if nothing hurts as much as seeing a child go. Even if our only consolation is that a sacrifice here buys an opportunity there.
Fare thee well, dearest Sophie, fare thee well.
Go see, go be, go know.
And come again when you can.
To the town that raised you, the home that shaped you, the family that loves you.
Very good letter Bob. Wish I had the ability to express myself the way you do...especially to my children. These are precious gifts from God. The time to teach and mold is pretty much over...now they must stand and deliver. Along with life's bumps and bruises. Thanks for the great column/letter. Rich