Dick Yarbrough

Dear Cameron Charles Yarbrough:

Well, it’s that time of year again when your great-grandfather dispenses a little advice to you that he wishes he had gotten when he was your age. This annual letter began when your father and his cousins were tykes. I never asked them if they read or saved or followed my advice. And I won’t ask you, either.

I can’t live your life for you. Only you can do that. But hopefully something you see in these words today will make a difference in the future, even if it is only a small one. Sometimes, a small difference can be big.

You are going to make mistakes. We all do. The most important thing is that you learn from your mistakes and then do your best not to repeat them. And don’t beat yourself up when you do. We are human beings and human beings are not perfect. But that shouldn’t stop us from trying to be our best self.

There are a lot of things in this world over which we have no control. One thing within our control is our attitude. Feel good about yourself. Count your blessings because you have been blessed. Never feel superior to others but never let others make you feel inferior. Don’t let others judge who you are. Don’t brag or try to impress. Let your actions speak for themselves.

Try to be the best at everything you do. Talent is important but effort is even more important. Someone may be able to outrun you, but don’t let them outwork you. Don’t go to bed at night knowing you did not give your best. You will have wasted a day you can’t get back.

It is easy to feel invincible at your age. You are not. None of us are. Don’t take your life – or any life – for granted. We don’t know how long we are going to be on this earth. Consider every minute of every day a precious gift because it is just that.

I can’t emphasize this enough: You didn’t select your last name. You inherited it and it is your responsibility to see that it is not tarnished. Whatever you do good or bad will be a reflection on our family. Be proud of who you are and makes us proud of how your actions reflect on our name.

Pick your friends carefully. Don’t try to be popular. Just be yourself. You will find those who will like you for who you are. Beware of those who will try to drag you down to their level because they don’t have your motivation or your integrity.

Sadly, we live in a mean world today. Don’t make it meaner by your own actions. Be nice to everybody. That is a strength of character. Don’t use the F-word and don’t take God’s name in vain or use a reference to excrement to make your point. Doing so makes you look like an ignorant and inarticulate jerk. Don’t make fun of people. That is cruel. Say “thank you” and “please” whenever possible. Be respectful of others. Make people glad that you are around because when you are you make things better.

Please put down the cellphone occasionally. I know there are a lot of interesting games and apps and other doodads that can be absorbing at your age but there is a lot of life going on around you that you may miss if you aren’t careful. I’ve never seen a beautiful sunset or heard a child’s laughter or felt a momma’s hug that could be replicated on a cellphone.

We are very proud of what you have achieved so far in your young life. You are excelling academically and athletically and even showing an affinity for music. But with our pride and your success comes the danger of you trying to live up to our expectations and not your own. Always be self-motivated. Continue to set high goals for yourself and don’t let us set them for you.

Until the day I die I am going to continue to remind you to dream big. There is no dream too big. Don’t see the world as it is but as it could be and that you could be the difference. Someone will cure a disease, invent something to improve mankind, lead our nation, inspire others. Why not you? Why not, indeed.

Thank you for letting me share these thoughts with you. I love you very much.

PA

•Dick Yarbrough is a four-time winner of the Best Humor Column by the Georgia Press Association. Reach him at dick@dickyarbrough.com; at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dickyarb.