Thought this was pretty neat. Prioleau Alexander uses the mini-series Lonesome Dove to pass along life lessons to his nephews.
Like most Uncles, it is my desire to be remembered by my nephews when they are older, and I am gone.
I will never hold a place in their lives remotely as important as their parents, but then again I am spared the difficult task of actually raising them. Their parents enjoy the most intimate, wonderful times, but must also endure the difficult times. They have their role clearly defined by societal norms, while mine is vague. I can be the cool uncle, the crazy uncle, the generous uncle, the carefree uncle…or, if I choose, the aloof and distant uncle.
I don’t know what combination of these I will be remembered as, but I’ve made certain it will not be the latter. I had one of those, and when we buried him I didn’t shed a tear. After all, one rarely cries over a stranger.
Anyway, a while back my brother’s son won the Exceptional Citizen Award from the school he attends. There was only one recipient, and it was a very big deal. The award shocked me, because it was so different from my behavior in school…. I was a popular kid, but I used my popularity like a self-centered pop star. I surrounded myself with the cool clique…I teased the unpopular kids…I scorned the un-coordinated kids…and I spoke nary a word to any girl I didn’t consider cute.
In short, I was a jerk, and I’m ashamed of it to this day.
My nephew, on the other hand, is an athletic and popular kid, but has used his popularity in a way that reveals an exceptional man in the making. The award he won sited the fact that he never speaks badly about a classmate…he is the first to encourage and compliment the class underdogs…he is the student who always reaches out to a classmate in need… and he is courteous and respectful to his teachers. He doesn’t know it, but he now holds in his mind the memories I wish I had from those years.
I wrote my nephew a letter to tell him how proud I was of him. I wrote a letter as opposed to stopping by and talking to him because no one writes letters anymore, and I knew it would have a deeper impact on him. I didn’t, however, just tell him I was proud of him; I told him why I was proud of him, and discussed at length some of the trials and tribulations he would encounter as he grew older…I did my best to help him understand how rare his gifts are, and how those gifts could serve him in the future…I talked to him like an adult, and said, “You’re on the right track. Be proud of yourself, and don’t change for anyone.”
Then, to my surprise and amazement, my sister’s son recently won a similar award. Different parents…but obviously this nephew has the same sort of gifts, and attitudes towards his fellow man.
And this got me to thinking…as an Uncle, what could I possibly offer these lads that might have an impact on their lives?
Then, on a long bike ride through the hills of Western Maryland, it occurred to me: Boys learn from their parents…and through good parenting become good men… but the one thing they usually fail to do is listen to their parents on matters concerning the years ahead. Parents have the ability to offer them decades of wisdom paid for with significant quantities of personal pain, but there’s something about the human psyche that causes us all to reject this most obvious and valuable of gifts. Like a moth to the light, it is our fate to bump up against that smoking hot orb called experience until we learn, or die.
So, on this bike ride, I decided my gift to my nephews would be wisdom.
There are, of course, several drawbacks to this plan . . .
Read it all.