My Story, A Letter Home

Not so long ago in A Glance Backward, I wrote about The Letter Q and the letters it contained from authors who wrote to their younger selves.   Below is a letter I wrote and put up here almost two years ago following the inspiration given by that book.  After posting the importance of Your Story this week on Serendipity, I thought about this again. Following the inspiration from another blog, I offer it up once more.

Letter to my younger self: Taking a tough look back

Dear Rich (at 14),

I know you are going through a tough time right now and you have learned to clam up about it.  You don’t know who to tell or even who to trust so you build walls of defense around your personal life.  These walls will not serve you well over time, I am sorry to tell you.  I can say it is good you did not run away, although you probably did not have the courage to do that anyway.  Your parents are going through an ugly time.  When they sold the house and got an apartment, you and your brother both knew it was a mistake.  The worst part about it is they made that mistake, they thought, for you.  It was to see you through grade school, but it should have ended when it was over.

The good thing about the apartment was the large bedroom and large walk-in closet.  It was an actual closet you could go hide in when necessary.  Too bad you only lived there for a year.  In this time you will take refuge frequently at a Boys Club where you have been a member and played sports, even though you were not real good at sports.  You are further away from the club now so school, a few friends and the Club will keep you away from home most of the time.

Soon you will learn that the first person interested in you sexually is another boy.  He is a year behind you in school, but not very much younger in reality.  He seemed quite experienced next to your naiveté.  The brief friendship will weigh heavily on your Catholic, guilt ridden conscience.  You will come to terms with this, although it will take you years to do so.  Many years later you will learn from your mother that this boy married (a girl) and still lives in the old neighborhood.  You will have moved to another area and stayed put for years.  I write to you from there and I can tell you that we found employment at the Club for a while and spent many years playing in that same park you found as a kid.  These will be good memories.

While you attend high school proms and college dances with girl friends, you will discover there are other boys who find you “cute.”  You never thought of yourself as cute or handsome so these attentions may seem a bit confusing.  When you get hit on by the younger brother of a close friend, you fear that the world will soon know all about it.  Don’t worry, no one knows.  At least, I think no one knows.  Other boys travel through your life, but none stay.  I think that is largely due to your stubborn attitude about most things.  I guess it is less so from where I am at now.

You will come to believe, perhaps rightly so, that your various groups of friends, and various lifestyles, will not mix well so you make sure they don’t mix at all.  This is a talent you picked up when you were very young.  Within these several groups, people only see one side of you and may believe that is all there is.  It is a defense mechanism on your part and I must tell you that in the long run, it is not beneficial.  You are solidly convinced right now that you are doing the right thing, but people will leave your life not knowing who you really are.  That will make you sad.  It is a hard time to be open, but I am convinced your friends will stand beside you, even as they do now.  Would you be surprised to learn that your closest friends after college and for many more years to come are mostly from your high school days, both from your class and a few that followed?  When you finally let them get to know you, they remain your close friends.  You will also make new and younger friends right about now.  They will be great friendships, perhaps because they really know you.  I guess I am not sure about that, however.

I would like to warn you that after high school and college you will make a lot of stupid mistakes.  You will invest times in meaningless friendships and all for the wrong reasons.  Dare I tell you of the beating you will take for who you are and the scars it will leave on your face and your spirit?  You were not going to have your class portrait taken for graduating from NEIU because it was soon after, but they convince you to come.  Your face will be bruised and battered from what they would now call a hate crime.  The photographer tells you that you can reject all the pictures and you are convinced you will.  I am glad to tell you they come out OK.  We would call it photo shopping now but you will know that they did a great job of air brushing the pictures.  I still don’t know exactly what that process is but it worked well.  I do not think my words of caution will do much good since I know you so well.  Would you steer a better course if I showed you the way?  I fear not, since you remain stubborn.

Despite the mistakes and the down times that will follow, I need to tell you this one very important thing.  It gets better.  Those three words will almost be a cliché by the time you get to where I am now, but it is true.  You will find many around you who will say the same.  It is the only thing I can tell you that matters.  I can not alter your course, but I swear to you that it gets better.  Please believe me.

Your future friend,

Rich

Why do you care?

Seriously, why do you care?

Symbol of the major religions of the world: Ju...

Symbol of the major religions of the world: Judaism, Christianity, Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“What’s it to you how others get along as long as you have yours?  Let them get their own!”  You may have heard many versions of the “What’s it to you?” question in recent years.  You may have been told, “Never mind about them.  It is not your problem.”  If you have a comfortable living, I suppose you can walk away from a lot of social problems.  Indeed you can rant and rave against any notion that we should help others.  “Let them help themselves,” you may add.  “There is no need to concern ourselves about that problem, because it is not our problem.”

When exactly did we come to the philosophy to protect the wealth of the rich and to hell with the poor?  When did social security, medicare and unemployment benefits become terms that are to be tossed around like dirty rags into the trash?  There was a time when the Republicans across the aisle and their leaders called for additional taxes on the “haves” in order to help the “have-nots.”  Now many of them act as if this never happened.  Perhaps part of the problem is that they are all part of the rich themselves.  They pay themselves big salaries while trying to figure out how to give the elderly and the poor next to nothing.  To them “Entitlements” is a dirtier word than the seven dirty words George Carlin could not say on television.

On the other hand, some might argue there is a moral imperative that comes into play here.  That means we must take action, or not take action, as required based on a moral reason that comes from within ourselves.  This is like the voice inside that compels us to do right.  It is imperative that we do the right (moral) thing.  In modern philosophy I guess it is the same as saying, “do the next right thing.”  Suppose, however, there is no voice from within urging us to make the moral choice.  What if our inside tells us to ignore the needs of others and to protect our own?  What if our inner voice issues no commandment of reason (imperative) and there is no morality to be heard?  My friends on the left side of the aisle may call that the Tea Party voice, if they like.  I caution you that the Boston Tea Party was not what it seemed.

Whether or not there is a moral imperative to drive our decision-making, shall we also ignore the voice of the major religions that speak of our moral obligations?  Of course, there are people who do not follow any religion, but the vast majority of  people do associate themselves with one of the major religions.  Followers of Islam and followers of Christ both believe in the obligation to help those in need, Jews believe they are commanded in the Old Testament to help the poor, other major religions here this calling as well.  So how is it that political leaders can claim to be both religious and opposed to social programs?  Religious leaders here and around the world have encouraged the continuation of lending a helping hand in the tough economic times.  It is not a matter of whether there is enough to go around, it is the issue of whether there is a willingness to share.

Islam believes that it is a moral obligation for Muslims to share with the less fortunate.  It is a way for the rich to understand the needs of the poor.  A young man in Cairo recently told me that his family was fortunate enough to give a camel to the poor each year.  Some may give a goat or lamb.  Pope John Paul II wrote in his 1981 encyclical letter on social justice, Laborem Exercens, that there is a right to life and subsistence.  In other words there is an obligation to meet the minimum needs to the poor.  The Vatican’s Justice and Peace department have urged world leaders to create a fair economic system.  It called on Catholics as a “moral imperative” to help the poor.  U.S. Catholic bishops have urged Congress to extend social programs.  House Speaker John Boehner, a practicing Catholic, has been challenged by a faculty member of Catholic University regarding his willingness, almost stubbornly so, to cut or eliminate certain social programs.

Why should Congress care?  If they are not urged by some moral imperative from within, or pushed along by some moral obligation stated by the major religions, then by what standards do they rule over others?  In preserving as many of their own dollars and that of their wealthy friends, have they lived up to the social contract?  Do they care that men were “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are
Life?”  Or have we dropped “all for one” in favor of “each man for himself?”  Let’s look at this in an individually selfish way then.  Is is not better to preserve “domestic tranquility” by helping the poor when needed, rather than letting them fall into desperate and hopeless situations?  Crime rises in desperate times because if there is no hope, there seems to be little to lose.

 “The public revenues are a portion that each subject gives of his property in
order to secure or enjoy the remainder. To fix their revenues in a proper
manner, regard should be had both to the necessities of the state and to those
of the subject. The real wants of the people ought never to give way to the
imaginary wants of the state.”Thomas Jefferson

“Another means of silently lessening the inequality of property is to exempt all
from taxation below a certain point, and to tax the higher portions of property
in geometrical progression as they rise.”Thomas Jefferson to James Madison,
1785

Sending a letter home

Not so long ago in A Glance Backward. I wrote about The Letter Q and the letters it contained from authors who wrote to their younger selves.   Below is a letter I wrote and put up here over a year ago following the inspiration given by that book.  I must confess that it was much harder to read now than it was to write it then.  Following the inspiration from another blog, I offer it again.

Letter to my younger self: Taking a tough look back

Dear Rich (at 14),

I know you are going through a tough time right now and you have learned to clam up about it.  You don’t know who to tell or even who to trust so you build walls of defense around your personal life.  These walls will not serve you well over time, I am sorry to tell you.  I can say it is good you did not run away, although you probably did not have the courage to do that anyway.  Your parents are going through an ugly time.  When they sold the house and got an apartment, you and your brother both knew it was a mistake.  The worst part about it is they made that mistake, they thought, for you.  It was to see you through grade school, but it should have ended when it was over.

The good thing about the apartment was the large bedroom and large walk-in closet.  It was an actual closet you could go hide in when necessary.  Too bad you only lived there for a year.  In this time you will take refuge frequently at a Boys Club where you have been a member and played sports, even though you were not real good at sports.  You are further away from the club now so school, a few friends and the Club will keep you away from home most of the time.

Soon you will learn that the first person interested in you sexually is another boy.  He is a year behind you in school, but not very much younger in reality.  He seemed quite experienced next to your naiveté.  The brief friendship will weigh heavily on your Catholic, guilt ridden conscience.  You will come to terms with this, although it will take you years to do so.  Many years later you will learn from your mother that this boy married (a girl) and still lives in the old neighborhood.  You will have moved to another area and stayed put for years.  I write to you from there and I can tell you that we found employment at the Club for a while and spent many years playing in that same park you found as a kid.  These will be good memories.

While you attend high school proms and college dances with girl friends, you will discover there are other boys who find you “cute.”  You never thought of yourself as cute or handsome so these attentions may seem a bit confusing.  When you get hit on by the younger brother of a close friend, you fear that the world will soon know all about it.  Don’t worry, no one knows.  At least, I think no one knows.  Other boys travel through your life, but none stay.  I think that is largely due to your stubborn attitude about most things.  I guess it is less so from where I am at now.

You will come to believe, perhaps rightly so, that your various groups of friends, and various lifestyles, will not mix well so you make sure they don’t mix at all.  This is a talent you picked up when you were very young.  Within these several groups, people only see one side of you and may believe that is all there is.  It is a defense mechanism on your part and I must tell you that in the long run, it is not beneficial.  You are solidly convinced right now that you are doing the right thing, but people will leave your life not knowing who you really are.  That will make you sad.  It is a hard time to be open, but I am convinced your friends will stand beside you, even as they do now.  Would you be surprised to learn that your closest friends after college and for many more years to come are mostly from your high school days, both from your class and a few that followed?  When you finally let them get to know you, they remain your close friends.  You will also make new and younger friends right about now.  They will be great friendships, perhaps because they really know you.  I guess I am not sure about that, however.

I would like to warn you that after high school and college you will make a lot of stupid mistakes.  You will invest times in meaningless friendships and all for the wrong reasons.  Dare I tell you of the beating you will take for who you are and the scars it will leave on your face and your spirit?  You were not going to have your class portrait taken for graduating from NEIU because it was soon after, but they convince you to come.  Your face will be bruised and battered from what they would now call a hate crime.  The photographer tells you that you can reject all the pictures and you are convinced you will.  I am glad to tell you they come out OK.  We would call it photo shopping now but you will know that they did a great job of air brushing the pictures.  I still don’t know exactly what that process is but it worked well.  I do not think my words of caution will do much good since I know you so well.  Would you steer a better course if I showed you the way?  I fear not, since you remain stubborn.

Despite the mistakes and the down times that will follow, I need to tell you this one very important thing.  It gets better.  Those three words will almost be a cliché by the time you get to where I am now, but it is true.  You will find many around you who will say the same.  It is the only thing I can tell you that matters.  I can not alter your course, but I swear to you that it gets better.  Please believe me.

Your future friend,

Rich

Why do you care?

Seriously, why do you care?

Symbol of the major religions of the world: Ju...

Symbol of the major religions of the world: Judaism, Christianity, Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“What’s it to you how others get along as long as you have yours?  Let them get their own!”  You may have heard many versions of the “What’s it to you?” question in recent years.  You may have been told, “Nevermind about them.  It is not your problem.”  If you have a comfortable living, I suppose you can walk away from a lot of social problems.  Indeed you can rant and rave against any notion that we should help others.  “Let them help themselves,” you may add.  “There is no need to concern ourselves about that problem, because it is not our problem.”

When exactly did we come to the philosophy to protect the wealth of the rich and to hell with the poor?  When did social security, medicare and unemployment benefits become terms that are to be tossed around like dirty rags into the trash?  There was a time when the Republicans across the aisle and their leaders called for additional taxes on the “haves” in order to help the “have-nots.”  Now many of them act as if this never happened.  Perhaps part of the problem is that they are all part of the rich themselves.  They pay themselves big salaries while trying to figure out how to give the elderly and the poor next to nothing.  To them “Entitlements” is a dirtier word than the seven dirty words George Carlin could not say on television.

On the other hand, some might argue there is a moral imperative that comes into play here.  That means we must take action, or not take action, as required based on a moral reason that comes from within ourselves.  This is like the voice inside that compels us to do right.  It is imperative that we do the right (moral) thing.  In modern philosophy I guess it is the same as saying, “do the next right thing.”  Suppose, however, there is no voice from within urging us to make the moral choice.  What if our inside tells us to ignore the needs of others and to protect our own?  What if our inner voice issues no commandment of reason (imperative) and there is no morality to be heard?  My friends on the left side of the aisle may call that the Tea Party voice, if they like.  I caution you that the Boston Tea Party was not what it seemed.

Whether or not there is a moral imperative to drive our decision-making, shall we also ignore the voice of the major religions that speak of our moral obligations?  Of course, there are people who do not follow any religion, but the vast majority of  people do associate themselves with one of the major religions.  Followers of Islam and followers of Christ both believe in the obligation to help those in need, Jews believe they are commanded in the Old Testament to help the poor, other major religions here this calling as well.  So how is it that political leaders can claim to be both religious and opposed to social programs?  Religious leaders here and around the world have encouraged the continuation of lending a helping hand in the tough economic times.  It is not a matter of whether there is enough to go around, it is the issue of whether there is a willingness to share.

Islam believes that it is a moral obligation for Muslims to share with the less fortunate.  It is a way for the rich to understand the needs of the poor.  A young man in Cairo recently told me that his family was fortunate enough to give a camel to the poor each year.  Some may give a goat or lamb.  They do not help just those in need in their own country, but also those that are desperately poor in Gaza.  Pope John Paul II wrote in his 1981 encyclical letter on social justice, Laborem Exercens, that there is a right to life and subsistence.  In other words there is an obligation to meet the minimum needs to the poor.  The Vatican’s Justice and Peace department have urged world leaders to create a fair economic system.  It called on Catholics as a “moral imperative” to help the poor.  U.S. Catholic bishops have urged Congress to extend social programs.  House Speaker John Boehner, a practicing Catholic, has been challenged by a faculty member of Catholic University regarding his willingness, almost stubbornly so, to cut or eliminate certain social programs.

Why should Congress care?  If they are not urged by some moral imperative from within, or pushed along by some moral obligation stated by the major religions, then by what standards do they rule over others.  In preserving as many of their own dollars and that of their wealthy friends, have they lived up to the social contract?  Do they care that men were “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are
Life?”  Or have we dropped “all for one” in favor of “each man for himself?”  Let’s look at this in an individually selfish way then.  Is is not better to preserve “domestic tranquility” by helping the poor when needed, rather than letting them fall into desperate and hopeless situations?  Crime rises in desperate times because if there is no hope, there seems to be little to lose.

 “The public revenues are a portion that each subject gives of his property in
order to secure or enjoy the remainder. To fix their revenues in a proper
manner, regard should be had both to the necessities of the state and to those
of the subject. The real wants of the people ought never to give way to the
imaginary wants of the state.”Thomas Jefferson

“Another means of silently lessening the inequality of property is to exempt all
from taxation below a certain point, and to tax the higher portions of property
in geometrical progression as they rise.”Thomas Jefferson to James Madison,
1785

Letter to my younger self: Taking a tough look back

Dear Rich (at 14),

I know you are going through a tough time right now and you have learned to clam up about it.  You don’t know who to tell or even who to trust so you build walls of defense around your personal life.  These walls will not serve you well over time, I am sorry to tell you.  I can say it is good you did not run away, although you probably did not have the courage to do that anyway.  Your parents are going through an ugly time.  When they sold the house and got an apartment, you and your brother both knew it was a mistake.  The worst part about it is they made that mistake, they thought, for you.  It was to see you through grade school, but it should have ended when it was over.

The good thing about the apartment was the large bedroom and large walk-in closet.  It was an actual closet you could go hide in when necessary.  Too bad you only lived there for a year.  In this time you will take refuge frequently at a Boys Club where you have been a member and played sports, even though you were not real good at sports.  You are further away from the club now so school, a few friends and the Club will keep you away from home most of the time.

Soon you will learn that the first person interested in you sexually is another boy.  He is a year behind you in school, but not very much younger in reality.  He seemed quite experienced next to your naiveté.  The brief friendship will weigh heavily on your Catholic, guilt ridden conscience.  You will come to terms with this, although it will take you years to do so.  Many years later you will learn from your mother that this boy married (a girl) and still lives in the old neighborhood.  You will have moved to another area and stayed put for years.  I write to you from there and I can tell you that we found employment at the Club for a while and spent many years playing in that same park you found as a kid.  These will be good memories.

While you attend high school proms and college dances with girl friends, you will discover there are other boys who find you “cute.”  You never thought of yourself as cute or handsome so these attentions may seem a bit confusing.  When you get hit on by the younger brother of a close friend, you fear that the world will soon know all about it.  Don’t worry, no one knows.  At least, I think no one knows.  Other boys travel through your life, but none stay.  I think that is largely due to your stubborn attitude about most things.  I guess it is less so from where I am at now.

You will come to believe, perhaps rightly so, that your various groups of friends, and various lifestyles, will not mix well so you make sure they don’t mix at all.  This is a talent you picked up when you were very young.  Within these several groups, people only see one side of you and may believe that is all there is.  It is a defense mechanism on your part and I must tell you that in the long run, it is not beneficial.  You are solidly convinced right now that you are doing the right thing, but people will leave your life not knowing who you really are.  That will make you sad.  It is a hard time to be open, but I am convinced your friends will stand beside you, even as they do now.  Would you be surprised to learn that your closest friends after college and for many more years to come are mostly from your high school days, both from your class and a few that followed?  When you finally let them get to know you, they remain your close friends.  You will also make new and younger friends right about now.  They will be great friendships, perhaps because they really know you.  I guess I am not sure about that, however..

I would like to warn you that after high school and college you will make a lot of stupid mistakes.  You will invest times in meaningless friendships and all for the wrong reasons.  Dare I tell you of the beating you will take for who you are and the scars it will leave on your face and your spirit?  You were not going to have your class portrait taken for graduating from NIU because it was soon after, but they convince you to come.  Your face will be bruised and battered from what they would now call a hate crime.  The photographer tells you that you can reject all the pictures and you are convinced you will.  I am glad to tell you they come out OK.  We would call it photo shopping now but you will know that they did a great job of air brushing the pictures.  I still don’t know exactly what that process is but it worked well.  I do not think my words of caution will do much good since I know you so well.  Would you steer a better course if I showed you the way?  I fear not, since you remain stubborn.

Despite the mistakes and the down times that will follow, I need to tell you this one very important thing.  It gets better.  Those three words will almost be a cliché by the time you get to where I am now, but it is true.  You will find many around you who will say the same.  It is the only thing I can tell you that matters.  I can not alter your course, but I swear to you that it get better.  Please believe me.

Your future friend,

Rich