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Sat, Dec. 14

Column: Granddaddyisms

Here is another installment of Granddaddyisms I shared with our eldest grandson when he was teenager.

• Dylan, be cautious in trusting a person who makes a strong declarative statement without attaching any reservations, qualifications or conditions.

• Back in the early 60s when I was active in the civil rights movement, I began a friendship with the minister, William Sloane Coffin. We corresponded before and during our family's 1964 summer in Alabama when I taught at Tuskegee Institute. Anyhow, in one of his books he discussed intolerance and wrote these words about people who engage in what psychiatrists call premature closure. "They are those who prefer certainty to truth, those in church who put the purity of dogma ahead of the integrity of love. And what a distortion of the Gospel it is to have limited sympathies and unlimited certainties, when the very reverse-to have limited certainties and unlimited sympathies - is not only more tolerant but far more Christian." A major part of my belief system is captured in this statement, which he has expressed far better than I could.

• People who insist they are RIGHT may not be fully human. To err is human.

• To know that you know little is a sign of intelligence. To communicate to others that you know little will likely win the respect of others who also recognize they know little. Those who communicate in this manner are often educated people.

• Dylan, I was very fortunate in my early adult years to discover that a defining priority in my life would be to try to make a positive difference in the lives of people, especially youngsters. One of the most meaningful experiences your granny and I ever had occurred when I was in graduate school at Colorado University when we together taught a Sunday School class for high school students. We began when they graduated from middle school and continued with the same 12 students until they graduated from high school. This experience was not only personally gratifying but necessary for my mental/emotional health. I came to understand that my life would be meaningless if I was not engaged in serving others. I also began to understand how extraordinarily fortunate I was to live with a person who, in her early years, also embraced this life goal as her own. There is no doubt in my mind that you are going to live a life of service to others, Dylan. If and/or when you begin looking for a mate, I suggest you give priority to someone who has similar life goals. I hope you will as lucky as I have been.

• If you ever find yourself doing something you shouldn't be doing or heading down a road that is going nowhere, have the good sense or courage to turn around. It's not strength of character that impels you to continue, but stubbornness. Inattentiveness or a bad choice may have put you on the wrong path and to continue only makes you obstinate and, possibly, a fool.

• Here is my best counsel for coping with life: look for the funny and learn to laugh.

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