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To My Dearest Daughter -- Letter From a Lifer

The Beat Within Jun 19, 2013

The Beat Within

My Dear Child,

Congratulations on making the Honor Roll! I am very proud of you!
I knew you could raise your grades. Your mom told me that you have a
3.5 grade point average now, which means you are averaging around a B+.
That’s very good, and you should be happy about this accomplishment.


The things you do now will become the everyday habits you will use in
High School; think of Middle School as training camp for High School.
With that in mind, make sure to pick up only good habits that will
benefit you.

I have been very pleased with your improvements over the years, Sass’.
Now, what I would like you to do is go over your report card with your
mom and identify the classes you scored lowest in. Do you have a class
with a C, or a B-? Once you have identified the classes with the
lowest grade(s), I want you two to talk about why you got that grade.

What was so hard about the class? Did you have trouble on the tests?
Did you have any trouble with your homework? Was it difficult to
understand the teacher’s directions?

I want you to really think about the “why” of your trouble, and be
honest. You must be honest with yourself about things. If you cannot
be honest with yourself, how can you be honest with anyone else?

Did you just not like the subject, or the teacher? Did you not try
very hard because you were not interested? Were you just lazy?
Whatever the reason for the grade, I am not upset. What is important
to me is that you understand what went wrong. Once you understand the
problem, you can begin to solve it. That’s what I want you to talk
about with your mom next.

What can you do to ensure you do better next time? If you had trouble
with tests, you can study more, or take better notes. If you had
trouble with homework, spend more time going over it and ask your mom
or Tia Celia to help. If you don’t understand your teacher, you can
raise your hand in class and ask any questions so you are clear about
it.

If you just don’t like your teacher, or the class, well... at one
point in life, or another, we all have to stuff we don’t like. Maybe
it’s a chore, or a job, or have to be around a person we don’t get
along with. Not everything in life will be easy. But how you handle
this hard stuff will define who you are as a person. Your will, your
heart, your mind, and your spirit: These are all things that need to
meet challenges in order to grow. Unless you exercise your muscles,
you will not get stronger. Your heart and mind are the same in this.
Your ability to endure and overcome these small problems will prepare
you for the larger ones to come.

I am in prison, and it sucks. I am around drug addicts and shady
people all day. A lot of guards here are just bully-ass little kids in
uniforms. I don’t get to be around my family, who loves me, nor my
friends who care. But am I broken? Do I curl into a ball and cry? No.
My soul and my mind push me to accept what I cannot change, and
endeavor to better the things I can. If I can do that in prison, you
can do it in school, right?

Don’t, for one minute, think that my encouraging you to improve means
that I am not proud of you or what you have accomplished. You are my
hero, my pride. I see great strength and love in you, and know you are
worthy of so much more. It is because I see this in you that I push
you to do more. I don’t ever want you to complacent with so-so work.
Not when I know you are capable of greatness.

There’s a guy named Robert Half who said that “hard work without
talent is a shame, but talent without hard work is a tragedy.”

What do you think he meant by that? I could tell you, but then I’d be
robbing you of the opportunity to figure it out on your own. In your
next letter, I want you to tell me what that saying means to you.
Also, I want you to tell me the meaning of these two words:
perseverance and pride

I don’t want some definition out the dictionary either. I want you to
tell me what your understanding of these words is, and why they are
important to your life.

Remember, because I am your father, it is my responsibility to be a
teacher. I must install in you values, beliefs, morals and the good
judgment that will allow you to make good choices in life. If I didn’t
do that, I’d just be some guy who got your mother pregnant. I do this
now, so that in the years to come - many, many, MANY years from now -
when it’s time for you to have a family of your own, you will find a
man who will love and teach his kids with the kindness, affection and
patience that I have shown. Take care, and God bless.

Love, Daddy

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