Column: An open letter to my grandkids

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Roger VanHaren

I’m 79 years old, and I don’t get to see my grandkids anywhere near as often as I want to. None of my grandkids has ever asked me for advice, but here a few comments for their edification — an open letter to the 10 wonderful kids in my life:

Dear kids,

Each of you is a beautiful gift of God both to our family and to all the world. Don’t ever forget that, especially if and when doubt and discouragement enter into your lives.

Always tell the truth.

Never tell anyone you love them when you don’t. Mean it when you say it! Hug people you love. Tell them how much they mean to you now; don’t wait until it’s too late.

Don’t yell at people. It never works, and it hurts both you and the people you yell at.

Take Ellen DeGeneres’ advice and “be kind to each other.” Go out of your way to help other people — especially those who are in most need of your help: children, the frightened and those who are weak. Compassion is a marvelous trait.

Don’t be afraid when it comes to living your life as fully as you can. Follow your hopes and your dreams regardless of how difficult or different your aspirations may seem to others. Don’t worry about what others may think or say. Avoid those pessimists who scoff at your dreams. Adopt the Nike motto: “Just do it!” Take risks; make mistakes. When you get to the end of your life, you don’t want to have to say: “I woulda. I coulda. I shoulda!”

Get as much education as you can. You will never regret learning anything, even if you think you may never use it. Learning is its own reward.

Read books, as many as you can. They are wonderful sources of delight, wisdom and inspiration. No batteries or USB connections necessary, and they’re very portable!

Choose your profession because you love to do it. Be careful not to take a job just because of money alone – it will cripple your soul. There may be some things hard about it, but a job must be a joy.

Appreciate beauty — art, music, literature, poetry.

Live in harmony with nature. Spend time outdoors, hike in the woods and marvel at the beauty of mountains, rivers and wildlife. Be a steward of the environment. Do your share to protect our natural resources.

Make a bucket list of all the things you want to do. Make it long, and do some things from it every year: Travel to places; learn a skill; master a language; meet someone special. Don’t procrastinate and say, “I’ll do it tomorrow (or next month or next year).” There is no surer way to fail to do something. There is no tomorrow, and there is no “right” time to begin something except now.

Travel whenever you get the chance, especially when you’re young. Don’t wait until you have “enough” money or until everything is “just right.” That might not ever happen.

Be grateful.

Contact Roger VanHaren at