Happy Third Birthday, Arthur!

To Arthur, on his third birthday:

My sweet and joyful baby boy, happy birthday.  In last year's letter, I set out three things that we had learned about you over the course of the then-previous year.  Those all remain true--particularly your physical presence (the red thread of your second year has been learning (and unlearning) "gentle hands").

This year we can add another item: you are a sensation.  Everyone you meet just loves you.  It is true.  Adults tell us all the time how much they are in love with you, and word on the preschool playground is that you are "in" with your peers and the "older kids."  Perhaps it is your low-slung cheeks that squeeze your mouth and eyes together when you grin.  Or maybe those Great Barrier Reef-blue puppy dog eyes.  That elderly statesman hair and swagger that you have going for you?  Whatever it is, people have an inclination to quickly fall in love with you.

I hope you continue to feel that but that you will respect your nature with a sense of humility and will use it for good.  There was a story over this last football season about a group of players who visited a middle school.  When they went to the cafeteria, one player spotted a redheaded autistic boy sitting by himself.  The player sat with the boy and talked with him.  A candid picture was taken of the interaction and sent to the child's mother, who posted the picture and this statement to the internet:

Was there a time today you felt sad? Who did you eat lunch with today? Sometimes the answer is a classmate, but most days it’s nobody. Those are the days I feel sad for him, but he doesn’t seem to mind. He is a super sweet child, who always has a smile and hug for everyone he meets. A friend of mine sent this beautiful picture to me today and when I saw it with the caption “Travis Rudolph is eating lunch with your son” I replied “who is that?” He said “FSU football player”, then I had tears streaming down my face. Travis Rudolph, a wide receiver at Florida State, and several other FSU players visited my sons school today. I’m not sure what exactly made this incredibly kind man share a lunch table with my son, but I’m happy to say that it will not soon be forgotten. This is one day I didn’t have to worry if my sweet boy ate lunch alone, because he sat across from someone who is a hero in many eyes.

The best part about the story is that the interaction with the team continued for this boy, and the story did not end as a sentimental one-off.  It is, at its heart, a sign of respect for the dignity of another human being.

In today's ethos, there is a strange public battle across dozens of camps about who actually is the least these, who has been left out most.  Much of the discussion passes by faster than the Thousand Mile Tree.  But there are those who are truly left out on a daily basis for a thousand different non-reasons.  You will easily see them.  I did and do, and, all too often, I've done nothing or worse.

If you are so easily loved, I, your father, am charging you (and myself) with a sacred duty: to give back that which you did not earn.  I want to help you learn to do that.  It does not always come easily and often may seem to bear a cost. But you will find as you grow older that you will reap what you've sown, and I suspect you will then learn those intangible and mystical paradoxes of giving, yet receiving. Dying, yet living.  Meek, yet inheriting.  You will not just feel love, but you will inhabit love itself.  And that will be a sensation.

Happy birthday, son.