My dear Rebecca,
Soon you will become focused on the urgent distractions of teenage life, not to mention imminent partying and dancing. Before that happens I would like to steal five minutes and make a wish for your future.
You were born with extraordinary gifts of character. You are responsible to a fault, a tad too literal for your own good, and you possess a natural tendency to aspire to do more than necessary. It was no surprise to your mother and I that you performed beautifully today at your Bat Mitzvah. We are very proud of you.
I sometimes joke that you are a very low-maintenance child. I may regret saying this at some point, but I would like to give you permission to stop being low-maintenance – at least for a little while. It is time for you to lose some of your innocence and grow beyond mere instinct.
Think of it this way. You already possess a keen ear for honesty and graciousness. Without much effort those traits will blossom as you grow up, turning you into a responsible and conscientious adult. Experience can help you bloom further, developing other traits you also possess, such as patience and generosity.
Consider patience. You have been endowed with an abundance of it. It enables you to step back from impulse, to reflect thoughtfully, or look beyond the merely ephemeral. However, it also has a downside. Patience fosters endless waiting if it lacks a well-specified aim and if it goes adrift.
As an adult you will face decisions that will try your patience. This is particularly so with choices over whether to give up or stay the course. These can be the most difficult in an adult life. So here is my first wish for you: to learn to refine your patience with your gifts for honesty and grace.
Now consider generosity. While you already are kind, generosity goes further. It is the foundation for the grandest form of human charity, whether it is writ in a large selfless gift or a small nurturing gesture of love.
As an adult you will see the fruits and failures of your generosity, how generosity leads to great achievements and disappointments. So my second wish for you is this: to learn to become aware of the fear of disappointment, to learn how not to make it central to your actions. Give to those around you in the most graceful way possible, with warmth, without expectation, and honestly.
Here is what I am trying say. Patience and generosity together, offered honestly and graciously, enable partnership and love, and many of the mature behaviors of grownup life. But these character traits do not arise by themselves. They develop during experiences, and most such experiences fall outside the routine. Some can be painful. I wish that you will have the courage to face these experiences as an inexorable part of growing up, and learn from them.
I have one more wish, and it starts with the hope that you do not take this advice too literally. This is just advice, not a rule. If you come up with a thoughtful answer to life’s riddles in your own unique voice, then it is your prerogative to use your gifts as you wish. So this is my last wish: whether or not you give these words any more than fifteen seconds of thought, please take a moment and share your thoughts with your mother and me. We would like to know your thoughts as you grow. I hope we can have a conversation.
And with that, it is time to party. Let’s start the party with a toast to life. L’chiam.