I check in occasionally with the blog, Letters of Note, and today read a letter from W.E.B. Du Bois to his fourteen-year-old daughter recently enrolled in an English boarding school. He extols her to work hard and, most importantly, be herself no matter what people with their “curious little annoyances” may do or say. I can very well imagine writing something of the sort to both of my boys one day, and particularly, dear Jonah.
Study, do your work. Be honest, frank and fearless and get some grasp of the real values of life. You will meet, of course, curious little annoyances. People will wonder at your dear brown and the sweet crinkley hair. But that simply is of no importance and will soon be forgotten. Remember that most folk laugh at anything unusual, whether it is beautiful, fine or not. You, however, must not laugh at yourself. You must know that brown is as pretty as white or prettier and crinkley hair as straight even though it is harder to comb. The main thing is the YOU beneath the clothes and skin—the ability to do, the will to conquer, the determination to understand and know this great, wonderful, curious world. Don’t shrink from new experiences and custom. Take the cold bath bravely. Enter into the spirit of your big bed-room. Enjoy what is and not pine for what is not. Read some good, heavy, serious books just for discipline: Take yourself in hand and master yourself. Make yourself do unpleasant things, so as to gain the upper hand of your soul. —W.E.B. Du Bois to his daughter, Yolande
The ability to do. The will to conquer. The determination to understand and know this great, wonderful, curious world.