A Note to My Grandchildren

"It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men." ~ Frederick Douglass

Dear Jk, Em, and future Neels I may never meet. Spend a little time with me here.  Credit me with having lived a good, full, and happy life. Lend me a bit of credibility for that and pay attention to an old man.

Here are some pointers I'd like to share with you. They may be contrary to what you may hear at school, from trusted friends, on the internet, at the movies, and on TV, and , perhaps, at home. Many of these points are unpopular, hard to follow, and even harder to live by, but they are, nevertheless, True.

  • Do the hard right thing, rather than the easy wrong. Being a good person is better than being a popular person. My Litmus Test: Would Mom would approve?

  • Never lie, cheat, or steal. That's a very hard rule to follow these days. Many times it will put you at a temporary disadvantage, but the honorable person will win in the long-run.

  • Being Smart is OK. Be a Scientist. Get into Engineering, Math, Computers, and Art.

  • You don't have to be perfect. Look around. Try to spot a perfect person. They don't exist.

  • Education is the key to good decisions, success, and happiness in life. Make great Grades, read Books, attend a good college, be Informed. Be a life-long learner.

  • The Lone Wolf is Weak; The Pack is Strong. Find people like you, be a good friend to them, band together, and stand up for each other. Never travel alone.

  • Be True to Your School. Go to your schools Sporting Events and cheer on the home team. Get to know the Jocks; they are not bad people. An easy way to do that: Pick out a player, watch him or her in the next game. Compliment them on Monday with something like, "GREAT GAME Friday, you really had some great tackles." You'd be surprised how few compliments linemen, pole-vaulters, volley-ballers, and third basemen get.

  • Play a sport. Find one you love and stick with it. You'll get better. Even Michael Jordon and Bo Jackson could only play one sport well. You don't have to be varsity; there are intramural teams. Just play for the enjoyment of it. If you'd like to try clay target sports, contact your friendly neighborhood grandfather.  The first one who does gets my Citori.

  • Join the Choir and Sing. Learn to play an instrument. Making Music is one of the most enjoyable things in life.

  • Join a Club. Learn to play Chess or something.

  • Befriend the friendless and stand up for the little guy.

  • Stand up for yourselves. Usually a bully only needs to be confronted, but be prepared to defend yourself. Train. Walk away if you can.

  • In a fight, there are no rules. There is no such ting as a fair fight. Never start a fight, but once started, win. Knees and Elbows are better than feet and fists. A knee to the balls or an elbow to the nose, chin, or throat will usually stop a fight.

  • Sometimes, you lose. Dust yourself off, learn, and move on.

  • Don't be easily offended. Don't carry a chip on your shoulder. Be sensitive to other people, their beliefs, their culture.

  • Report Bullying and Harrassment: be specific, keep notes, record names, times, places.

  • If you see something, say something. Never be afraid to tell an adult. Bullies require the silence of good kids to operate. They do not deserve your silence.

  • Be wary of people until they prove they can be trusted. Many cannot be.

  • PROTECT your reputation! Once it is gone, you can never get it back.

  • What you put on social media is there forever and will turn up at the worst times. Making and/or sharing compromising photos of yourself is never a good idea. Photos rarely tell the whole story and are ALWAYS subject to the worst interpretation. Embarrassing or private photos always turn up at the worst time.

  • Most of what you see on TV, on the internet, and on social media is Bull Shit. Never trust politicians. Your protection from both is being well read and well educated. Watch out for some of those professors as well. Always ask the hard question. Make up your own mind. Never follow the crowd. Be willing to change you opinion when faced with compelling information to the contrary.

  • Real men never, ever hurt women. Show Respect and demand it of others.

  • Wait until you are out of High School to have Sex. Preferably, wait until you meet the person you want to marry. Sex can be fun and beautiful, but it can also be gut wrenching and emotionally traumatic.

  • Don't go steady. Date a lot of people. The goal of dating is to find out what type of person you want to marry. Don't let your friends dictate who you date.

  • Don't drink until you are 21. Even most 21-year-old people are not emotionally equipped to handle alcohol. Yes, you can still have fun without alcohol. While I was at VMI, and this is true at every college, every time something bad happened, it involved alcohol...be that a fight, assault, sexual assault, or suicide. Be the person who watches out for others when they are drinking. Be the designated driver. Never get in a car with a drunk driver or a person who has had even one drink.

  • Don't Smoke. How could setting something on fire and breathing in the noxious fumes into your lungs make any sense at all? How does that make you look Cool? If you ever think about lighting up, do this first-- Go to the nearest smoking outpost and open up the butt receptacle. Have a good long look inside. Now, give it a big Lick! No? Why not? That's what you're putting inside your body, lungs, and mouth...and won't you look cool pulling that oxygen tank around later in life?

  • Illegal Drugs are NOT OK...ever, no matter what Hollywood and your friends tell you. Yes, marijuana is a gateway drug. Watch real Cop TV shows; that'll show you you don't want to use drugs. People who use drugs are the losers of society. We have examples of this in our own family. Just ask.

  • You can't choose your sex. No matter what you hear in school, on TV, in your music, or from any source, your sex was chosen for you at conception. Male or female. That's all there are. Don't be a flake and believe everything you hear. Be a scientist. Just because a belief is popular, doesn't mean it is not a LIE.  HOWEVER, you can be anyone you resolve to be.  Don't let anyone tell you how to live.

  • Be aware of your surroundings, ALWAYS. Before you leave the relative safety of your house, your car, your work, or a business, have a look around first. Don't walk blindly into a bad situation. Realize that you are not always safe. Have a Plan. Keep your head in the game and out of your Cell Phone. Never wear Headphones outside. Your hearing is one of your most important defensive mechanisms.

  • Guns by themselves are not a problem. Guns in the hands of evil, stupid, angry, disturbed, and careless people is the issue. Thinking Guns can solve a personal problem is stupidity. Watch for tale-tale signs of someone in trouble who has access to guns or a strong interest in guns, and report it to your parents or a school administrator. In a hurry, call 911. We have had enough gun deaths in this family.

  • If you choose to own guns, train yourself how to use them, take classes, practice, store them safely and properly, always treat them as if they are loaded, don't point a firearm at anything you don't intend to kill, keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire, and never-ever brandish a firearm unless you are willing to use it. Having to kill someone is infinitely more horrible than you can ever imagine.

  • Show respect to Police Officers...always. "Yes Officer" and "No Officer" go a long way to diffusing situations. People who get shot or taken down by police officers are almost always the ones at fault. Right or wrong, ticket or no ticket, always thank your police officer for the tough job they do.

  • Serve your country and community. There are many ways to do this, BUT, being in the Military gives you skill-sets that you can get nowhere else and that will serve you well throughout life. There is no higher or honorable calling. Ask yourself, as I did, "If I am not willing to serve, who can I depend on to protect my freedom?

  • Study the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Protect and Uphold It...all of it.

  • Find a vocation that you love, in which you are proud, and that makes you happy. If you can make money at it, great, but money is not all-important. Money, however, does make life easier, but you can always live within your means.

  • Pay yourself first. Save for that Rainy Day. Budget. If you have disposable income, invest in secure saving plans first, then diversify. The people who make the most wealth are those who take risks...mitigated risks. Be smart with your money.

  • Love is rare and mysterious. I believe it finds you. Once you have it, and you will, you will know, and you will know only a few true loves in your life. Cherish it, work at it, protect it, and fight to keep it.

  • Don't get married until after you turn 24. You will be an entirely different person by then. Don't be in a hurry. See the BIG World first. If at 18 you think you have found the perfect person, they will still be perfect when you are 25.

  • Build a good life of Family, Love, and Fun.

  • Add value to your life with hobbies and interests. Concentrate on a few. If you want to tour battlefields, study the cosmos, or take up photography, see me.

  • Find your spiritual side. Find something to believe in that is larger than yourself.

  • Take photos all your life, everyone you know, every place you visit. You will be glad you did.

  • Keep a Journal. Learn to write well. Tell your stories; write true and hard. Write as if to your best friend.

  • Diet and Fitness are the keys to good health. Both take work.

  • Challenge yourself. Believe in yourself! You can always do more, be more than you think you can.

  • Above all else, remember that you are a Neel.