Late last December, I made some New Year’s resolutions that included writing a letter every week to two of my grandchildren at a time and bringing treats once a month to our public librarians and the baristas of the coffee shop I frequent. Usually, my resolutions have the life span of a mayfly, but this time, I published these intentions in an article for The Epoch Times.
Failure was not an option.
At the time, my platoon of grandchildren numbered 20 boys and girls, not counting three who had returned to God at their birth, and they ranged in age from 14 to 1. A month ago, a newborn girl brought another addition to these ranks.
My grandchildren enjoyed these letters. For the little ones, I wrote far fewer words, but added plenty of stickers from the Dover books purchased at my local bookstore. One of the youngest carried her letter everywhere she went for a couple of days.
I’m unsure whether I will continue this project—I’m guessing I probably will—but I decided to end the year with a bang. I’m sending out the letter below to all my grandchildren along with a personal note on a Christmas card, which should especially please that letter-loving kid.
Our young people need our encouragement, particularly now, and our country needs them if liberty is to survive. Maybe letters like this one will help give them the strength and courage to persevere.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you!
As I write these words, I see you in my mind’s eye gearing up for the holidays, decorating your trees and homes, making homemade gifts for Mom and Dad, and I hope, pitching in to help your parents around the house.
This will be a different sort of letter than the ones you’ve gotten from me this past year. No jokes this time for you older kids, and sorry, little ones, no stickers of farm animals, penguins, and airplanes. This one addresses you and your future, and those of you too young to comprehend will perhaps read this letter with understanding in another 10 years or so.
As some of you older kids know, and as you little ones may have sensed through the tensions you’ve felt at home from your parents and older siblings, 2020 has been one tough old year. You’ve watched your schools and homeschooling co-ops closed down, your sports and music lessons canceled, your get-togethers with friends curtailed. Everywhere you go in public, you see people in masks, some of them genuinely frightened by this virus, others only wearing the face coverings because the law requires them to do so.
On top of the destruction, much of it self-inflicted, wrought by this pandemic, you live in a country savagely divided by partisan politics, as evidenced most recently in a presidential election seemingly shot through with fraud. Some power-hungry people cheated at the polls in a myriad of ways in an attempt to win the presidency. (If you don’t know the meaning of myriad, look it up!) If successful at winning the election, they will do their best—or their worst—to change our government and its laws, with the intention of making the rest of us slaves of the state.
But there is good news.
As one of your mothers said to me in November, the divide between good and evil is clearer now than ever before in her lifetime, and she has a point. On one side are those sons and daughters of liberty who believe in the right to own property, to pursue happiness, and to go about their business with as little government interference as possible. Like your parents, these folks practice their faith, honor their flag and country, and believe in self-reliance and the American Dream.
On the other side are those who advocate communism and socialism. (If you don’t know the meaning of these words, ask your parents to explain them.) They believe America is evil, they regard many Americans as ignorant, and they want greater power and control over our lives.
So the line in the sand is drawn. We know where we stand. This is a good thing.
And there’s more good news. A friend in the publishing business wrote me after I bemoaned (Look it up!) our current state of affairs, and I paraphrase her response here (Look up paraphrase, too!): “We are living in exciting times, and we should feel privileged to be the standard-bearers for freedom.” This woman nailed it; we should feel blessed to find ourselves in the thick of such a fray, warriors for truth and for our country.
And you sprouts must take up that banner. Sooner than you think, you and your peers will step onto this battlefield. Some of them may run, some may seek refuge in silence, but your parents and I expect more of you. In ways large and small, you must stand your ground and defend liberty. Sometimes, the forces opposing you may seem overwhelming, but you possess one vital weapon the other side lacks: Truth.
To prepare yourself to defend Truth, you must learn as much as you can in school: literature, English composition, mathematics, science, crafts, and music. Absorb these things for the same reason you take your daily vitamins. By memorizing your multiplication tables or learning how to write an essay, you are readying yourselves to address deeper topics such as theology, philosophy, and physics.
Be sure, too, to read books that will someday act as your shield and buckler when you meet the dragon. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House on the Prairie” stories teach self-reliance and independence; J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy offers a lesson in persistence and courage; George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” and “1984” run up red flags warning you of the dangers ahead. Such stories enrich the mind and strengthen the heart, and will serve as guides and companions for the rest of your days.
And please, gang, study history, not just in school but for the rest of your lives. So many Americans know little of our country’s past, of the struggles and sacrifices that so many endured to build this wonderful land in which we live. Immerse yourselves in history—the story of our nation, of Western civilization, and of other countries. We are the living sum of all those men and women who have gone before us, and when we remain ignorant of their failures and accomplishments, we live as children rather than adults.
Make yourselves tough. Play sports, spend time outside, and run through the yard and climb trees as you did here at Thanksgiving. Become mentally and spiritually tough as well, able to take the punches of life. Face up to adversity when it comes your way, and when you are in the right, stand fast and defend that right, but with logic, reason, and compassion for others rather than with hyperbole (another one to find in the dictionary) and prejudice.
Your country is going to need you. Your family and friends will require your defense. Even we who are dead by then will need you to remember our dreams for you and this wonderful country.
In the words of Winston Churchill, a great man whose story you should one day explore, “This is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”
Keep the faith, grandchildren. Keep your faith in God, your country, your family and friends, and the heritage of your civilization.
One last piece of advice: Remember to look for joy in this world. Remember the power of beauty and goodness. Look for that beauty starting now—in a sunset, in a book, in your father’s eyes—and practice goodness, even if it’s just giving a smile to a stranger or a kind word to your mother.
Be stars in the darkness, sweet ones. Be burning candles for faith, hope, truth, and charity.
With love and prayers for all of you this Christmas season,
Jeff Minick has four children and a growing platoon of grandchildren. For 20 years, he taught history, literature, and Latin to seminars of homeschooling students in Asheville, N.C. He is the author of two novels, “Amanda Bell” and “Dust On Their Wings,” and two works of non-fiction, “Learning As I Go” and “Movies Make The Man.” Today, he lives and writes in Front Royal, Va. See JeffMinick.com to follow his blog.