Dear Maggie- Taken from Faithful Travelers by James Dodson

Books are my priceless treasures…and so are my old letters and mementos. Whenever I encounter a well written letter in a book, I get very happy.

I just come across another great letter that’s worth sharing. This time a letter of a Father to his Daughter. Read through. It’s worth it. 😊

“Dear Maggie,

I’m sorry I’ve never written you a letter before. Guess I goofed. Parents do that from time to time. I know you’re sad about the divorce. Your mom and I are sad, too. But I have faith that with God’s help and a little patience and understanding on our parts, we’ll all come through this just fine. Being with you like this has helped me laugh again and figure out some important things.  That’s what families do, you know- help each other laugh and figure out problems that sometimes seem to have no answer.

Perhaps I should give you some free advice. That’s what fathers are supposed to do in letters to their children. Always remember that free advice is usually worth about as much as the paper it’s written on, and this is written on a used paper bag. Even so, I thought I would tell you a few things I’ve learned since I was about your age.

Always be kind to your brother and never hit. The good news is, he’ll always be younger and look up to you. The bad news is, he’ll probably be bigger.

Listen to your head but follow your heart. Trust your own judgment. Always say thank you. Look both ways before crossing. When in doubt, wash your hands.

Remember you are what you eat, say, think, do. Put good things in your mind and your stomach and you won’t have to worry what comes out.

Always take the scenic route. You’ll get there soon enough. You’ll get old soon enough, too. Enjoy being a kid. Learn patience, which comes in handy when you’re weeding, waiting in line, or trying to ignore a jerk.

Play hard but fair. When you fall, get up and brush yourself off. When you fail, and you will, don’t blame anybody else. When you succeed, and you will, don’t take all the credit. On both counts you’ll be wiser.

By the way, do other things that make you happy as well. You’ll know what they are. Take pleasure in small things. Smile a lot. Your smile makes angels dance.

Never stop believing in Santa or the tooth fairy. They really do exist. God does, too. A poet I like says God is always waiting for us in the darkness and you’ll find God when it’s time. Or God will find you.

Pray. I can’t tell you why praying works any more than I can tell you why breathing works. Praying won’t make God feel any better, but you will. Trust me. Better yet, trust God.

Always leave your campsite better than you found it. Measure it twice, cut once. If all else fails, put a duct tape on it.

Don’t lie. Your memory isn’t good enough. Don’t cheat. Because you’ll remember.

When you get to college, call your mother every Sunday night. Realize it’s okay to cry but better to laugh. Especially at yourself. If and when you get married, realize it’s okay if I cry.

Read everything you can get your hands on and listen to what people tell you. Count on having to figure it out for yourself, though.

Make a major fool of yourself at least once in life, preferably several times. We live in a serious time. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Admit your mistakes. Forgive everybody else’s.

Notice the stars but don’t try to be one. Be kind to old people and creatures great and small. Learn to fight but don’t fight unless the other guy throws the first punch.

Learn when it’s time to open your mind and close your mouth. (I’m still working on this one.)

Finally, there’s a story I like about an Indian boy at his time of initiation. As you climb to the mountaintop, the old chief tells his son, you’ll come to a great chasm- a deep split in the earth. It will frighten you. Your heart will pause.

Jump, says the chief. It’s not as far as you think. This is excellent advice for girls, too. Life is wonderful but it will frighten you deeply at times.

Jump, my love.

You’ll make it.



– From Faithful Travelers by James Dodson, in Reader’s Digest Best Nonfiction, Volume 4, pages 283-285.


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