2 years and 169 days. Do what you love.

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Do you remember eating the yummy Koi bulgogi tacos while enjoying the sights and sounds of Last Thursday Alberta?  our sand art battles at the beach? catching craw fish and guppies in the stream like I did growing up? our after dinner walks in Honolulu when we were there for your cousin’s wedding?

How can I ever forget Jaialai’s repeated pronouncements that he hates water? his swing at auntie for trying to pull him into the swimming pool? and his refusal to immerse anything above his ankles in the warm waters of Okinawa?  But, the best part was when, a few days later, he doused himself in the public shower after a swim, and shouted, “I LOVE WATER!”

How can I ever forget Shosh “reading” The Raven and the Starfruit at 2? saying “be careful, Dad!” at three when I climbed rocks and tried to catch him a crab? or telling me that seaweed tastes “like beans!”?

These memories are among my most precious treasures.  I love that during our last summer together, we made it our summer goal to explore as many of the local streams and waterways as possible.  I love that you enjoy art fairs, music festivals, and Saturday markets.  You boys are so adventurous!  You truly are the best part of my life!

Live so that you can look back on your life with few regrets.  Live so that you can look in the mirror and not feel shame.  Live so that even in the darkest of nights, you have warm memories to feed your soul and stoke the fires of hope.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/shes-a-first-generation-college-student-and-she-got-her-pick-of-5-ivies/2015/06/21/a2e624f0-1600-11e5-89f3-61410da94eb1_story.html.

Live your passions.  Who knows where it could lead you?

All my love, always,

Dad

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2 years and 168 days. Help … don’t hurt.

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

L’enfer est plein de bonnes volontés et désirs”  (hell is full of good wishes and desires)

–Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

Years ago, I was graced with an opportunity to work with Pam Baker to help asylum seekers in Hong Kong.  http://www.theguardian.com/news/2002/apr/27/guardianobituaries.  She was a wonderfully crazy and unique individual.

Pam Baker

For example, she used to drive her convertible jeep in the rain with the top down.  Between lights, she drove really fast so she wouldn’t get wet — her forward momentum would cause raindrops to hit her windshield, and not fall directly down on her.  Then, when she had to stop at red lights, she quickly opened her umbrella!  Of course, she did all that with a lit cigarette hanging from her lips.  Mind you, she was in her early 60s at the time.

She had brilliant legal mind, a sharp wit, and even sharper tongue for those who inflicted injustice upon the helpless and the weak.  The best things about her, though, were her amazing ability to keep her humanity, and to fight against overwhelming odds to protect the human rights of others.  She lead a rag tag team of volunteers from Australia and America to fight for justice and the rule of law when those ideals were inconvenient for the international community.

Many a good people joined Pam’s fight.  But, not all who joined were good.  There were those who claimed they were their to help, but their motives were dishonorable.  Some, for example, were unsuccessful in their respective countries, and found in refugee camps a ready place where they could prey on those weaker than they.

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”  Too often, people bring ruins to the very thing they said they were there to help.

Sometimes, people masked their evil actions with good intentions.  Other times, their good intentions may be true, but they simply failed to execute them.  I find most frequent, however, people do harm because they simply put other desires or interests above their good intentions.  These could be the desire to look good, to appear smarter than others, to feed the ego, to prove others are foolish for not accepting their help, etc.

Don’t be like that.  Help if you can.  If you can’t help or contribute positively in any way, then do nothing.  Walk away.  Don’t do anything that will hurt the cause you were going to help.  This is a simple rule that I live by.

All my love, always,

Dad

2 years and 166 days. Be adventurous.

An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.  G.K. Chesterton

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Remember when Jaialai used to say, “Dad, let’s go somewhere we’ve never been before.”  I loved that!  I miss that.

Boys, have a sense of adventure.  It will make life a lot more interesting.

Life is a journey, not a destination.  Have a sense of adventure, and enjoy the .

Whether you plan on it or not, life will find ways to give you adventures.  So why not embrace life and all the adventures she offers.  Enjoy the ride … or at least make the most of it.

For example, one of my best days backpacking Europe was when, after a long night, I got off the train early the next at the wrong station and found myself in a small town in the middle of nowhere.  The next train wasn’t scheduled to arrive for hours, so I ended wandering through the village and surrounding countryside.  I had an amazing time.  On another occasion, I got lost in the maze that is Tokyo, and ended up coming across a dojo where kids were practicing kendo.  I whiled away the afternoon mesmerized by this unfamiliar dance/martial art.  (I tried, but never found my way back to that dojo.)  Look at what is now happening to us?  I couldn’t have guessed it in a million years!  Could you?  (Not all adventures are positive, but each gives us a chance to test our mettle, and grow in character.)

So don’t be a sourpuss.  Don’t be a cynic.  No one likes negativity, negative energy, or a negative person.  In fact, a recent study found that less cynical people earn more money and live longer than their counterparts.  https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201506/cynical-attitude-could-cost-you.

By the way, just to be clear, when I say “have a sense of adventure,” I DO NOT mean do stupid and senseless things that many idiots do on YouTube or that could get you in trouble with the law.  What I mean is try new activities, eat new foods, read new and different books, meet new peoples, explore your world, and expand your horizons.  That is what I want you.  And, that, is what I wish to God I could be there to help you learn.

All my love, always,

Dad

2 years 164 days. The only person you can count on is … yourself.

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Today was a rough day.  But, it reminded me of the one, inescapable and fundamental lessons in life: at the end of the day, the only person you can ALWAYS count on is yourself.

Don’t get me wrong, I want you two to always take care of each other and be there for each other.  You are brothers!

But, in life, that may not always be possible.  So, be prepared to go it alone when and if necessary.

I pray and hope that you will find loved ones and dear friends who will be there through thick and thin.  As a parent, I hope and pray your path will be an easy one.  However, as a parent, I also have a responsibility for preparing you for whatever life throws at you.  Toward that end, I want you to steel yourself for those occasions when you must have courage to follow your conscience and go it alone if necessary.

You are always in my heart and my thought.

All my love, always,

Dad

2 years and 163 days. Be accountable.

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

There has been a lot in the news recently about Dylann Roof, and his cowardly act of shooting unarmed and innocent people while they prayed.  Today, the NY Daily News reported that losing a girl to a black man two years prior fueled his hatred for black people.  The Daily News compared his actions to that of Elliot Rodger, another loser, who killed six people in 2014, because he lost his love interest to another.  http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/dylann-roof-raged-black-guy-girl-report-article-1.2266378.

There are two lessons to be had here.

First, Shosh, remember what Teacher Mary used to say?  Who is in charge of your body?  You are!  No one else is.  Not your friends.  Not your boss.  Not anyone else.  If you choose to do something at their urging — no matter how strong their urging, what you do is still on you.

Take ownership of your conducts.  Be the best you can be.  Live so that you have few regrets.  Strive to do what is right, always.  They say integrity is what you do no one is watching.  Someone is always watching … you.  Your conscience.

These days, too many are given to victim mentality.  They blame everyone but themselves for what happens in their lives.  Don’t be like them.

Life is never perfect.  We play the hand we are dealt.  Winners make the most of it.  Losers whine.

In other words, we do not get to choose the conditions life gives us, but we get to choose how we react to those conditions.  Winners solve the problems confronting them.  Losers whine about their fate, and make excuses for their failures.  To which group do you want to belong?

The second less has to do with the gentler sex.  Here, I want you to be the best you can be, and hold out for the woman who is worthy of you.  If someone you liked failed to recognized the amazing young man are, then it would be her lost, not yours.

Wait for the right one.  Be patient.  Don’t listen to the fools who say women are like buses and if you lose one, another will be along shortly.  People are neither interchangeable nor replaceable.  Hold out for the right one, then hold on to her with everything you have.  A good woman is hard to find, and worth all your best efforts.

All my love, always,

Dad

 

2 years and 162 days. Be grateful.

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Studies have shown that the happiest are those who are grateful for what they have. Be grateful, my sons.

I am grateful for having you in my life, and for the years I had with you.  No one and nothing can take that away from us.

All my love, always,

Dad

 

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2 year and 161 days. I had an unhappy Father’s Day, but others have it worse.

If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap.
If you want happiness for a day, go fishing.
If you want happiness for a month, get married.
If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune.
If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody else.

Chinese Proverb

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Is it still Father’s Day when you are without your kids?  It feels anything but.  Holidays are the hardest without you guys.

But, if it’s any consolation, there are others much worst off than us.  Trust me.

A quick look at the news will show the tragedies that unfold around the world each day.  The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said, “More people fled last year than at any other time in our records. Around the world, almost 60 million have been displaced by conflict and persecution. Nearly 20 million of them are refugees, and more than half are children.” (Under international law, a displaced person must be outside of his or her country in order to even trigger the analysis of whether he or she qualifies as a refugee.)  http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/20/world/un-world-refugee-day/index.html.  The Washington Post reported that the “nation of the displace” now has a population equal that of the United Kingdom.  http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/new-un-report-says-worlds-refugee-crisis-is-worse-than-anyone-expected/2015/06/17/a49c3fc0-14ff-11e5-8457-4b431bf7ed4c_story.html. As a result of the recent earthquake in Nepal, for example, “[m]ore than 4,800 people [are] dead. More than 9,200 [are] injured. Eight million [are] affected across Nepal. One million children [are] urgently in need of help.”  http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/28/asia/nepal-earthquake/index.html.

There is much suffering in the world.  It needs people to help it be a better place.  There are trees to be planted for the environment, and houses to be built for those who cannot afford their own.  There are hungry people to be fed.  Lonely people to be comforted.

You just have to open your eyes, and look around you.  You don’t have to look far.  You will find that those who need help may include your neighbors, your classmates, your friends.  Nearly one in four children in America live in poverty, and go hungry on a regular basis.  See, e.g., http://nccp.org/topics/childpoverty.html; and, http://abcnews.go.com/US/hunger_at_home/hunger-home-american-children-malnourished/story?id=14367230.  (Ironically, at the same time, “[o]ver a third of all adults [in the U.S.] and 17% of teenagers and children are obese.” http://wgno.com/2015/06/04/obesity-in-the-u-s-fast-facts/.)  Churches and organizations like Habitat for Humanity need people to help them help others.

I failed you by not introducing you to public service earlier.  I should have actively shown you how we help others.  For example, during our time together, among other things, I volunteered with Legal Aid Services to help victims of domestic violence, Habitat for Humanity to help build homes for the poor, and a Food Bank to help feed the hungry.  I also lead efforts to protect the kids in our neighborhood by trying to persuade a church that it is a bad idea to hold its weekly ministry for convicted sex offenders and other convicted criminals within 60 steps of your school and less than half a mile from a second elementary school.  I should have involved you, or discussed these activities with you.

That will change when we are together again.  There are so many things we could do to help others.  For example, before you were born, I

  • helped get groceries for our elderly neighbors
  • worked with a priest to chop wood for a poor family to help them keep warm during the winter.
  • volunteered with a relief nursery to help prevent child abuse, and a homeless shelter for families.
  • drafted a policy for a government agency to prevent hypothermia in the homeless population, worked with government officials and community leaders to implement that policy, and volunteered at the shelter on cold nights when it opened its door to those who could find no other shelter.
  • spent years working with refugees in the U.S. and overseas, and had the privilege of working with some very good international human rights lawyers.

I have met children who were born and grew up behind barbed wire fences of refugee camps, and had never known soft grass beneath their feet, the gentle purr of a kitten, or the joy of an ice-cream cone.  I have met a woman who worked double shifts at a fast food restaurant to support her children while they stayed in a homeless shelter.

There are many people out there who are poor or marginalized through no fault of their own.  They work hard, but the vagaries of life conspire against them.  They cannot get ahead, and need our help.

Try to help them whenever you can.  It doesn’t have to be much.  It could be a smile at someone who thinks the world has forgotten they exist, a comforting word for someone in emotional turmoil, or a sandwich for someone hungry.

(Be smart, though, when you do help someone.  For example, DO NOT EVER go near or get into a stranger’s car if they should ask you to get something out of their car for them, for example.  As always, use your brain.)

Hopefully, my sons, until we are together again, helping others may help lessen the pain of our separation.  Until then, be well.  Be good.  Be happy.

All my love, always,

Dad