Today, you graduated. I could say I have never been prouder, but that would be untrue.
Though finishing high school is a major milestone, and you did it with ease, it will never be seared into my memory as a “proudest moment”.
No… other moments have dibs on that moniker.
When your sister was born, we told you, “Kellen, you are the coolest person she will ever know.” Since then, you have played with her, fought with her, laughed with her, argued with her, hung out with her, ignored her… and through it all, protected her.
You became and ARE the coolest person she will ever know.
There will be a time when she will no longer have her dad or mom to look up to, but you will be there for her long after we’re gone. It’s not something to be sad about. It’s something to be proud of. And it’s just one of the things that make me so proud of you.
As you grew up, your mother and I insisted that you partake in a sport or organized physical activity of some kind. So you played baseball and soccer, football and volleyball, and earned your first degree black belt. You never quit. Yes, I realize that sometimes, you wanted to in the deepest way, but when we discussed that you don’t quit in the middle of a commitment, you agreed and stuck it out. Once your commitment was up, you made changes, but always you moved forward into another challenge. The older you have become, the more you have driven yourself to set a goal, make a commitment, and follow through. This is not only a terrific character trait, but it is also inspiring to others who look up to you. When I think of the road we’ve traveled with you in this, I see now how you’ve started to walk ahead, seeing where you want to go, and taking charge to make it happen. Your mother and I find great pride in your internal sense of purpose and what you are doing with it.
You never quit.
One of my favorite parts of you is your internal drive to lead… not in a bossy sort of way, but rather, from a loving, teaching perspective. I remember your mother telling me how your teachers would regale their adventures in the classroom with you, giving you the floor to teach part of the lesson. I watched as you grew, learning from others and your mother and I, and then turning around and passing that knowledge down to boys and girls younger than you. You are a protector of the weak. You connect with people and attract friends, not because of what they can give you, but because of what you give them freely every day. You have a natural gift to pull your friends and others along with you as you grow, passing on your loyal heart to them as you do so. When I observe you doing this, it warms my heart. To me, your giving heart, ready smile, and your ability to love people where they are and not push them away in judgement, is one of the things that make me most proud of you! I can never get enough of seeing you in that role or, hearing about it later.
It used to bother me when you moved into your teens and we didn’t always see eye to eye. Now understand that part of this was you starting to see who you were in relation to who I was. So I shut up and started to listen calmly and pay attention. What I saw was an individual who harvested the best that your mother and I had to offer, blended that with what Jesus had placed in your heart, and put it altogether as who you were. This realization has given me nothing but joy and anticipation to see who you are in the years to come. I wait now and watch with pride from the sidelines as you take the reins of your life.
As I write this, you are on a trip with friends… I don’t know where you’re going or where you are, but I get to see where you’ve been. And I like what I see.
I see a young man who isn’t afraid of going on his own. I see you making good decisions. I see you recognizing bad decisions and owning up to them–apologizing when needed. I see that you are private… that you aren’t a braggart that just spouts off at any given moment to hear his own voice. You are thinking before you speak. These are things that make me want to shout for joy!
You taught me how to be a dad. Not everything I tried worked. Some of it was stupid. There were moments where you had to deal with unwarranted anger, silly misunderstandings that could have been avoided had I stopped to just… listen. For those times I apologize. Thank you for not giving up on me and your mom as we learned to parent. You could have just shut us out, but you didn’t. We all learned from it and life is pretty awesome now. Thank you for being a part of that.
One of my favorite areas where we are most alike is humor. I am so glad I exposed you to comedy and taught you how to laugh at yourself. You have this outstanding dry sense of humor. Life is too short to take yourself seriously every waking moment and it’s so precious that you naturally see the silly irony that life and the world around you throws your way. I am proud that you are the one who brings laughter and joy to others–that is a gift that will always serve you in the most opportune and wonderful ways.
So yes, I am proud of you. You have always have been and always will be my favorite son. There will be times we get to share together in the future, but know that I value all our experiences together. My pride in you will never falter.
Your mother and I have been loosening our grip on you for a few years as you step out into your world. Attack it with an open mind. Always be ready to see others in the best light possible. If they prove you wrong, fine. You can adjust. Be generous with your time, your attention, and your heart. You know that the environment in which you grew up is unique and special. When you encounter others who don’t know Love like you have, or see Jesus the way you do, or make hamburgers the way you can… be generous with your knowledge of Things. It’s worth sharing. What God has put inside of you is worth sharing. The way you see the world is worth sharing.
So, this season in your life has closed. No big deal. It had to so you could be released for your next one. Change happens. Learn to roll with change. Always remember that although changes come, they don’t require you to lose who you are or erase your core of beliefs. Every time a new season rolls around, look for opportunity to inject who you are into it. Make it yours. Don’t let it take your foundation away from you. Instead, utilize change as growth, new perspective, or a filter removed that allows you to see things differently, better, or more completely. Always look to what the Holy Spirit has to say about your new seasons in life. Then… Full Speed Ahead!
My pride in you will never falter.
You are a special person in this great big world. Never look down on the effects you have on others. You may never know how a kind word or a generous heart can change someone. Those seeds can affect them in so many unknown ways and then grow through the generations that follow them into a harvest of untold proportion.
So I say all this to punctuate these words…
I. Love. You.
I love you, Kellen.
I know you know this. I just like saying it. I’m also very proud of you, but you know that too. But never stop believing it or saying it. There will come a time when you will tell some beautiful and amazing young woman that you love her… and that will be only the first of a billion times that you tell her. Never stop.
I’m not gonna finish this letter because my love and pride in you will never end. I’ve even published this in my blog, so when the Wayback Machine (internet archive) takes a periodical snapshot of this site, my words to you will be recorded in perpetuity… because, you know, the internet is forever.
Have a great day, son.