A Letter to My Sons, on Fear and Open Hearts

 

Dear Theo and Sam, my two little boys with two huge hearts. You are amazing. Theo, you are the most generous, kind little boy I have ever met. When you have something you know a friend or loved one will like, you never hesitate to give it up. I don’t even have to ask you, and I never have—you simply see something that would bring a person pleasure, and you want to share it with them.

And Sam, you are happiest when someone—anyone, really—will sit down next to you and share your world. You continually look up at them with a wide-open smile and heart.

You two are exactly what I hoped you would be. You are kind, generous, open-hearted little boys, full of love. In you, I see the best of life—the very best.

My heart hurts right now, sweet boys. So much that is happening right now is completely contrary to my beliefs. Every day this past week, I found myself more and more distraught about the nation you are being shown.

There is very little I can do about this. I have no power, really. Not in the grand scheme. But here in our home, Daddy and I do have power. We have power to share with you what we feel and hope that you will keep those values in your heart.

So instead, of complaining about what I can’t fix, I’m telling you what I want from you two. I want you to keep those open hearts. I want you to recognize that when someone is hurting, we help them. We don’t turn away because some group in power has said, “They are not worthy of our help. We have other priorities.”

People are the priority for us, boys. Always people. If someone is hurting or in need, we help them.

I want you not to be swayed by statistics presented as fact with bloated hyperbole about what they mean. Because as you will learn when you’re older, statistics can easily be manipulated. For every one person who tells you that people of a certain background are statistically more likely to be a threat, another person will show you a statistic that disproves that. Who is right? Honestly, there is no good way to tell.

So what do you do? Read all the facts, but take them with a grain of salt. And then, my boys, err on the side of human kindness. Err on the side of realizing that difference does not equal scary or dangerous—difference equals what our nation was built on. People came here seeking a better life and freedom from persecution. Through open doors they came. And some of these people were good, and others weren’t. But that’s just the nature of things: There are good and bad people in the world, of any background, and there always will be.

You know who came to this country from another? Your great-grandmother, a sweet woman who would’ve never hurt a fly. And ancestors on the other side, too—back in the great-greats and great-great-greats. And you know who else? My best friend’s father—a kind, hardworking man who is every bit as American as anyone I know.

Truly, I think one of our nation’s greatest moments was passing laws that allowed more than 80,000 Jewish Displaced Persons to immigrate to the U.S. after World War II. I think few would argue that we shouldn’t have provided refuge to Jews, and I wonder why the mentality now seems so much different.

I understand that those in power think they are somehow keeping our nation more safe. But in my mind, the greater danger is in closing ourselves off out of fear. I cannot stand the idea that you two are learning that the way to protect our nation from the small chance of a terrorist sneaking in is by closing everyone out. Do I want a terrorist slipping in? No, of course not. But I’d rather risk that and see you two grow in up a world where we help people, not turn our backs on them.

You two are fortunate: You are growing up in the privileged space of being white, middle-class, natural-born American citizens. And I will remind you over this next four years—and longer, if this trend continues—to remember how lucky you are, and to reach out a hand to those who need help.

 

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