Dear Lily

...we're selfish. Don't hold it against us, Lily, we can't help it. It's how we're put together.

Dear Lily,

You should know, I come from a long line of uncles who give bad advice. And it’s my duty as your new uncle to tell you this, upfront.

When I was eight, my uncle advised me the best way to lose weight was to eat kudzu. My other uncle laughed at this and said, the secret was, in fact, smoking more cigarettes.

So, since we uncles have no good advice, I’m going to tell you what my AUNT told me instead. She cupped her hands around her ears and said, “Learn to listen. It’ll make you smart.”

I suppose she’s right. After all, the wisest folks listen a lot, which is why you don’t see them going around munching on kudzu salads, puffing on Camels.

Anyway, maybe you’ll listen better than I do. Because I run my mouth so often it’s a wonder I still have a voice. Let’s just say, I’m not exactly the fella you want to go see a movie with.

If you do learn to open you ears, good for you. It will change you. You’ll start to realize that other people’s lives have more importance than you thought.

Like the woman at Dobb’s barbecue joint, in Dothan, who told me her cat is her closest friend. Or the man in the Thomasville bar, who said he misses his wife more in the mornings.

Or the fella with the ten-foot-long beard, who’s riding his bike from Miami to New Orleans.

I asked why he’d do such a thing.

He answered, “I don’t know.”

Well, maybe I’m a little like him. Because I don’t know, either. And I really shouldn’t be giving you advice. You don’t need it. You’re going to find your own way in life, that’s how people are.

Right now, you’re a baby, you have someone to wipe your you-know-whats. But when you get older, you’ll start buying toilet paper, and then you’ll be a real person. And real people make mistakes.

We do lots of things in our own interest, and end up ignoring the people we love. Because we’re selfish. Don’t hold it against us, Lily, we can’t help it. It’s how we’re put together.

Most of us don’t mean to hurt anyone. The problem is: it feels good to think of ourselves, forgetting others. The ones we’re supposed to help. People who hurt; who have less than you; who wonder what the whole point of living is; who haven’t been loved enough to feel confident.

But then, you will not be able to forget these people.

Not if you listen.

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