To Cameron Charles Yarbrough:
I am a bit late in getting my annual letter to you this year. Losing Grandma Jane just before Christmas was something none of us were expecting even though she had been pretty sick.
Some worthwhile lessons came out of that sad experience that are worth remembering. First, life is fragile and unpredictable. We have no guarantees on how long we are going to be on this earth. To waste this day because we assume there will be a tomorrow is not acceptable. We have no guarantees that there will be a tomorrow. Live each day to the fullest.
Second, Grandma was the most non-judgmental person I have ever known. She treated everyone kindly no matter who they were. What you saw with Grandma Jane is what you got. No pretensions. No phoniness. That was noted at her going-home service and has been the central theme of comments I have received about her in the days since. What a great legacy to have and what an appropriate example for the rest of us to try to follow.
You can honor her memory by living up to the potential she saw in you. Be the best you can be at everything you do, whether in the classroom or on the practice field. There are no shortcuts in life. Make excellence your norm. You may not always succeed but be able to look yourself in the mirror at night knowing you gave it your best shot.
You carry our family’s good name. Handle with care. A reputation lost is hard to regain. We all make poor choices from time to time and if you do, don’t try and rationalize your decision or blame others. Learn from it and don’t do it again.
Always tell the truth. Be a man of your word and someone who can be trusted. Don’t say anything you don’t mean. Avoid overstatement. Don’t brag. Let people see you for who you are, not what you say you are.
Pick your friends carefully. Don’t try to be popular. Rather, be respected. Be a leader and not a follower and if you are tempted to go along in order to get along, be strong enough to resist if the crowd is headed in the wrong direction. If your friends don’t like that, they weren’t friends to begin with.
Don’t be a quitter. Whatever you take up, see it through no matter how difficult it may be. It is said that winners never quit and quitters never win. That is true.
I have said this to you many times but it bears repeating. Dream big. There is nothing you can’t accomplish if you put your mind to it and make the effort. Someone is going to invent something that will change lives for the better. Someone is going to become a statesman or write a beautiful piece of music or explore outer space. Somebody is going to do it. One of my favorite sayings comes from playwright George Bernard Shaw: “Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not.” Why not, indeed? Dream big.
At the same time, do something that brings you satisfaction. Life is too short to be unhappy and unfulfilled. Don’t let others set your goals for you. Set them yourself but make them worthwhile goals. Try not to be ordinary.
Believe in God and show it by how you live. I despair at people who call themselves Christians but don’t walk their talk. They are narrow-minded, mean-spirited and judgmental. Don’t let anyone tell you his way is the right way and the only way. It is not. Your faith is between you and God.
Just look at a sunset or a flowering bush or listening to the laughter of your little sisters and you will know that God is all around you.
This has been a hard year for all of us. Grandma Jane thought you very special. So do I. Thank you for being there when I needed you. And thank you for being you. May you continue to make us proud.