August 8, 2011
This is the first of many letters that I will be writing to you. None of us know how long we have on this earth, and as we grow and as we experience life we learn different things and develop different understanding of things. I know that you’re too young to read this and understand this now, and I don’t know exactly when you will be old enough to do that, but I hope that through these letters you will gain and understanding and some small wisdom about life, the universe, and everything – or at least as your old man saw them at these points in his life. Hopefully, when we’re all older and grayer we can look back upon these with fond memory and mature reflection.
The first of many things I want to talk to you about is what you will do with your life. Sure, you’re only 12 weeks old, and this is way too early to be talking about such things, I’m sure. But this has been on my mind lately and I want to put it on paper before these ideas evaporate in the midst of the midnight feedings, the workaday life, and the daily grind. I hope that you will come to understand and remember and base your life on a very simply mantra and I’ve developed over the years. I also hope that I am successful in using this mantra to guide your growth and development – not to mention live and exemplify it myself. What is this mantra? It’s this: as your family and your parents, your mother and I will always love you and support you. We will support you no matter what you want to be or want to do with your life, but whatever it happens to be, always strive to be a good man, and to do great things.
Why am I making a distinction here with this phrase? It may sound like I’m quibbling over semantics, but words and wording can guide and formulate your thoughts, and your thoughts will influence your actions. I want you to understand that there is a very important distinction between a “great man” and a “good man”. We all want to be great men – men with fame, power, influence, wealth, etc. When we are young, we all want to be superheroes, rock stars, millionaires (or billionaires), and the President of the US. Sure all of these men may be worthy of emulation and adulation, but in reality all of that really depend on whether they are good men. All the power, wealth, influence in the world is worth nothing if what you have in your heart and mind doesn’t make you a kind person, an understanding person, a generous person, a good person. What exactly is a good man? There are many ways to define this, and you can even make a claim that different people define it differently. However, I will challenge that notion by saying that we may have a hard time explaining or describing what a good man is, but all human beings know innately what such a person is if we truly see one. Here’s a quote by Robert L. Humphrey that I think can help encapsulate this thought:
Wherever I walk,
everyone is a little bit safer because I am there.
Wherever I am,
anyone in need has a friend.
Whenever I return home,
everyone is happy I am there.
I want you to take this idea, take this quote and think about what it means. I’m sure that as you grow up you and I will have many a conversation discussing the meaning of this idea. To be a good man is not easy, and there is no sure path and no sure reward. Often you may not be appreciated or even know if you’ve succeeded. But this goal is the only truly worthy goal to have in life.
What about the great things? What is great? I say this to urge you to think big. Too often, people are too busy, too stressed, too unaware of themselves and the world to try to make an impact on the world. Be mindful and dream big. Go for the moon, the stars, try to reach the heavens. Life will throw its sticks and stones at you, but keep things in perspective – you have a larger goal in mind, you are working toward greater and larger ends. Understand that everything is a stepping stone, everything teaches you a lesson so that you can become better so that you can strive to make the world a better place. Make a mark on this world in your own way. I want you to know that there are no real limitations in this world except for the ones that you accept and set for yourself. Don’t let that happen. Don’t even let us do it to you. Your mother and I gave you life, and we gave you a life so that you can shout to the world that you are Nathaniel T. Kim and be heard. We and those who love you will always be right behind you, so don’t ever be afraid to climb Mt. Everest.