Little man, you slid into home base just past one on Sunday afternoon with a whoop and a holler just as slick and speedy as your sister did nearly three years before. One minute your mama was home baking lemon-blueberry muffins and then? Before she could even add the streusel on top? Your daddy was jeeping her to the hospital in Mt. Holly, and an hour later you astonished us all.
A friend who sang Happy Birthday to me that morning said I had caught up to her at 63. SIXTY-THREE.
What? For a moment there I was puzzled, then dismayed. But wouldn’t you know she turned out to be exactly right – I’m astounded myself by those 63 trips around the sun marked by the twelfth of June each year. At 564 million miles each orbit, your grandma’s a frequent flier for sure.
If Life were a Monopoly game made up of calendar days, you and I landed on the same square. 1:366 odds in this Leap Year but you managed it, little man. And from now till my trips around the sun are done, we’ll celebrate June 12 together. You are my best birthday gift ever.
Seeing as we only met a day or so ago, I’m not going to go all Wise Granny on you, sagely imparting the Wisdom of the Aged. The longer I live, the more questions I have. Every trip around the sun brings a wonder of its own. Besides, it will be years before you’re old enough to read these words. Decades, maybe, before you understand them. By then I may have gone to my new home.
So this letter, typed on something called a Surface tablet and posted on what in 2016 we called a “blog”? By the time you read this your world will have changed so much from mine that any advice I give you might be as obsolete as the paper we used to write letters on.
Today when your big sister and I came to visit, I got to hold you while your mama ate supper. No, wait, that’s not right – it was you who held me. You mewled a bit, blinked in the light and buried your head on my chest, sinking back into the dreams you left on Sunday.
With your head on my heart, the world spun back 32 times in its orbit and it was your mama, back then, snuggling warm and holding me close. And now I can tell you, little one, what I didn’t know to tell her then.
You are a child of privilege.
I don’t know what that word may mean when you’re reading this, but I can tell you right now what it does not.
You are not privileged because your skin happens to be light. The color of a man’s skin has nothing to do with his character.
You are not privileged because you were born into a middle-class family in America. Your grandparents’ grandparents were hard-working people who found their way here from across the sea: farmers and merchants and soldiers who had nothing but faith and hope. We welcome strangers in our family because we were strangers here once ourselves. Pedigree is not privilege.
You are not privileged because you were born a male. Gender is God’s great gift to you, little man, and to your sister too. Use it wisely. You are both his image-bearers. Male and female he created you to reflect the fullness of his creation to a mixed-up world.
But today? When your daddy swaddled you close and laid you in my arms?
This, now. I spied a bottomless well of love and joy in his eyes, and in your mama’s too. A love for you so big and a joy so strong it didn’t matter they had only just met you. They would die for you. And so would I. And your grandfather too.
God loves us all that way, little man. He loved the world so much he died for it. For us.
And that, my precious grandson, is Privilege. To be so loved.
But privilege has to mean something, else what’s the point?
Hear me clear: God’s already told us what matters most. The greatest thing, He said, is this: love your neighbor as yourself.
You were born into love, but your neighbor? Maybe not.
And could be that’s why he’s so mad at the world. He should have been loved. She should have been cherished. Maybe that’s why they’re giving the world the stink-eye. Why they’re shouting their rage however they can at whoever’s in the way.
Because they don’t know what it means to be loved.
So here’s what you can do with what you’ve been given:
love them rightly,
serve them justly,
walk next to them humbly.
With so much stardust on my shoes, I only have time for 20 or 30 more orbits, maybe not even that.
Everett Jacob, you’ve only just begun. The twelfth of June belongs to you now, to mark your trips around the sun.
And as your mama’s mama I am so privileged to travel with you for a time.
Love you forever,