Letters to My Son: Forests & Shoulders

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Dear Elliott,

You’re so tiny still.  You’ve been packing on the pounds in these first few weeks, but I can still pick you up and sway you around effortlessly.  Our afternoon dance parties have kind of become a thing.  I absolutely love it when I place you on my shoulder to burp you and your cheek touches my face.  I know mine must feel rough and whisker-y, but yours feels so soft and warm to my skin.  I’m pretty sure my brain instantly releases some sort of happy chemical each time this happens becasue your little head next to mine fills me with pure joy.

As I hold your miniature body up, I’m reminded that in so many ways we are all held up by others.  The family and home that you were born into has been cultivated by your mother and I and your mother and I are the products of those who did the same for us.  We all stand on the shoulders of those who’ve come before us.

In your family tree are many interesting stories and people.  The DNA that you carry in each atom of your being represents a limb that stems from a branch which comes from a limb, which connects to another branch, and still yet another.  Though the path of your newly sprouted life will certainly be its own unique extension of our tree, it will still always have come from ours.

This tree of life, within which you will always and forever have a home, is teaming with life and complexity.  And we’re a part of a forest that stretches as far as our eyes can behold.  If we were to read the tree-rings that tell the story of those who’s shoulders we stand on it would tell of people just like you, created in the image of Divine love.

You’ve got ancestors who fought in wars and others who nursed wounds and prescribed medicine.  There are arms dealers, bootleggers, ocean-crossers, head-hunters, para-troopers, car-sellers, church-starters, emergency room nurses, mothers, daughters, sisters, fathers, daughters, and sons.  You are them and they are you.   Wars, medicine, and everything in between.

Your mom and I hope you pick up the best of who we are.  Already, I think you’ve got some of your mothers looks, which is a good thing, trust me.

At some point you’ll start to see that though your parents love you unconditionally, they are not perfect.  Folks who study child development tell us this starts to happen at some point near you teenage years.  Whenever it happens for you, just know that it’s as normal as taxes and traffic.

You see my son, in this life are some of the most incredible people who bring the most incredible goodness to those around them- but there is no one perfect.  All of us, including you, will make mistakes and let others down.  This is humanity’s legacy.

Here is what I want to communicate to you about the shoulders we stand on and the forest that nourishes us:

As you look into the past and begin to understand where you come from, you’ll surely notice many imperfections and shortcomings.  There are the big things like environmental destruction and racial oppression, and there are also the more specific things like the particular flaws of your mother and I.  In the midst of that all, I hope you know that the beauty outshines the brokenness.

I hope that you can be the kind of person who does not get discouraged by all that’s wrong with the world and those who came before you, but that you will take the baton of history’s grand march and keep moving things forward in a way that brings an increasing amount of equity, goodness, justice, and love into the world.

Son, it won’t be long before it’s your shoulders that will carry the weight of others, and as your Father who loves you more than you’ll ever know, my ultimate hope is that you would come to know that underneath all that holds us up is a Love who cradles all of it- both our beauty and brokenness.

Anyways, those are some thoughts that I had as you rested on my shoulders the other day.

Love you buddy,




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