There are many things I hope for you. I hope for you to be happy, to feel successful, to find love, to be self-assured. I’ll be honest, there are petty things that I hope for you, too. I hope that you love to cook like I do. I hope that you enjoy reading, more than just your text messages or whatever the hell device is available when you’re older (on that note, I hope you don’t freak out when I tell you you aren’t getting a cell phone until you are old enough to understand its dangers and potentials).
I do hope you play sports, although I hope you’ll play a cheap sport. Y’know like running. One piece of equipment. And no, it’s not a pair of fancy shoes; it’s a copy of Born to Run so you can learn to sprint (inexpensively) barefoot.
But honestly, there is one things above all else I hope for you. If it is the only hope I have that comes true, I will be forever proud of you. And, that hope is this:
I hope you are kind.
I hope you notice the kid who eats alone and offer your companionship — and your extra peanut butter cup.
I hope you recognize when someone needs help in school, whether it’s holding a book, holding a door, or holding a hand.
I hope you are kind to the kids who are rough, and vulgar, and angry, and alone. I hope you see the good in every person, and know that underneath every layer of angst and anguish lies a unique person with unique needs.
I hope that when you have a choice between making your friends laugh and standing up for someone, you choose the latter because laughs will dissipate but your character will stay with you forever.
To be kind will not be easy. You live in a macho-male culture that is too uncomfortable in its own vulnerability to encourage boys to be kind. You will be expected to remain stoic, hardened, and detached — rough and competitive in ways that breed, honor, and encourage cruelty. You may be taunted and ridiculed for your kindness but remember this: Integrity outlives insults.
You also live in a society that often treats women as subordinates. Should you fall in love with a girl someday, I hope you are kind to her through all hours, including in locker rooms where your peers may objectify women and coax you into doing the same.
For that matter, I hope you treat every group with kindness, no matter how different their culture, complexion, or economics. At the root of kindness is respect. And, because the greatest teacher is diversity of experience, you do not open yourself to learn without respecting how valuable differences are.
The world will not always be kind to you, but in this adversity lies the opportunity to influence the world with your choice, even if it is one moment or one life. Kindness is the hardest thing to keep but the greatest thing to hold.
I still hold many other expectations for you, but know that through all of it, your kindness to others will matter most to me and to this world.
You can make mistakes, so long as they don’t take others for granted.
You can be a garbage man, so long as you don’t treat others like trash.
You can get D minuses, so long as you don’t treat others like failures.
You can love who you want, just as long as you love deeply, love always, and love completely.
Just be kind. Through every hardship you see and life you meet, be kind. I promise it will be worth it.