11/18/2017

Jul. 30, 2001: Dear Kathleen Devere Worthley, welcome to the world.

We are glad you have arrived. I thought your Mama and Daddy had outdone themselves when they created corn-fried shrimp at the exquisite little Georgia Sea Grill on St. Simons Island, but you are without question their greatest creation.

Your presence has been much anticipated. Things haven’t been going too well on the planet. I’m afraid those of us in charge have done a poor job of minding the store. We seem to have accumulated more than an ample number of self-absorbed and ill-humored individuals. What we desperately need are a few kind and gentle and loving souls. That is why we applaud your appearance. We need you.

I suspect your top priorities right now are food and sleep and the last thing you want is advice from some guy you haven’t even met. But as people who regularly read this space will tell you, I always have advice to offer, whether anybody wants it or not, so please bear with me.

First off, I urge you to try and make the world better than you found it. Given the current state of affairs, it shouldn’t be hard to do. You aren’t going to have much competition for the job. Most of us are too caught up in our own self-concerns to care about anything or anybody else. Making the world better really isn’t as daunting as it sounds. You don’t have to find a cure for cancer or save the Brazilian rain forest or write The World’s Great Novel, although any such activity would be welcomed. Just do something nice for somebody every day of your life. Nothing big. Usually a smile or a “thank you” will suffice and, believe it or not, these simple gestures can make the world better because they might just inspire other people to do the same.

Try as hard as you can to not be judgmental of people. We all have some good, although finding it may be hard at times.

Be passionate and don’t be afraid to dream big dreams. Too many people sleepwalk through life, simply occupying space and time. Find something that stirs you and do it to the very best of your abilities. It may be a talent — art or music or sports or science or some cause such as the environment or literacy or helping people less fortunate than you. What excites you isn’t as important as the fact that you care deeply about something.

Be patriotic. I hope you get a lump in your throat every time you hear The Star Spangled Banner like I do. You live in the greatest country on earth, but don’t take your freedoms for granted. Some very brave people sacrificed their lives to ensure that you and I wouldn’t have to sacrifice ours. Don’t be ashamed to love your country. Remind people who are so quick to point out our faults that they are lucky to live in a land where they can complain. In a lot of other countries, they would be wielding a pickax in a salt mine. And please vote every time you have the opportunity. Casting a ballot is the most serious obligation you will ever have as an American citizen.

Enjoy life. Watch the sun rise over the marshes at St. Simons and set in the mountains of Rabun County and realize how small we really are in the grand scale of the universe. Don’t take things too seriously. Enough of us already do that. We spend so much time grinding over what happened to us yesterday or worrying about what may happen tomorrow, but yesterday and tomorrow are the two things we can’t control. Live in this day and don’t waste a minute of it. Rejoice in God’s miracles like rain showers, red roses, vanilla ice cream, lightning bugs and Ray Charles singing “Georgia on My Mind.” Lordy, can that man sing!

I know I have given you a lot to mull over in your first few days here, Kate, but you have plenty of time and I’m sure you’ll come up with some ideas of your own. You come from good stock, and I am confident that you are going to make a positive difference in this world. I look forward to watching you grow and hope that one day we can continue this conversation over a plate of corn-fried shrimp. It will be my pleasure.