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My grandfather, a worldly wise man who lived for almost a century, would quote Sheikh Saadi often. One of his favorites was;

If money is lost nothing is lost, if health is lost something is lost, but if character is lost everything is lost.

It is this Character that Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States of America, wanted most to build in his son. On the first day of his son’s school Lincoln the father, not the President of the USA, writes to his son’s teacher with tall expectations:

“My son starts school today. It is all going to be strange and new to him for a while and I wish you would treat him gently. It is an adventure that might take him across continents. All adventures that probably include wars, tragedy and sorrow. To live this life will require faith, love and courage.

So dear Teacher, will you please take him by his hand and teach him things he will have to know, teaching him – but gently, if you can. Teach him that for every enemy, there is a friend. He will have to know that all men are not just, that all men are not true. But teach him also that for every scoundrel there is a hero, that for every crooked politician, there is a dedicated leader.

Teach him if you can that 10 cents earned is of far more value than a dollar found. In school, teacher, it is far more honorable to fail than to cheat. Teach him to learn how to gracefully lose, and enjoy winning when he does win.

Teach him to be gentle with people, tough with tough people. Steer him away from envy if you can and teach him the secret of quiet laughter. Teach him if you can – how to laugh when he is sad, teach him there is no shame in tears. Teach him there can be glory in failure and despair in success. Teach him to scoff at cynics.

Teach him if you can the wonders of books, but also give time to ponder the extreme mystery of birds in the sky, bees in the sun and flowers on a green hill. Teach him to have faith in his own ideas, even if everyone tells him they are wrong.

Try to give my son the strength not to follow the crowd when everyone else is doing it. Teach him to listen to everyone, but teach him also to filter all that he hears on a screen of truth and take only the good that comes through.

Teach him to sell his talents and brains to the highest bidder but never to put a price tag on his heart and soul. Let him have the courage to be impatient, let him have the patience to be brave. Teach him to have sublime faith in himself, because then he will always have sublime faith in mankind, in God.

This is the order, teacher but see what best you can do. He is such a nice little boy and he is my son.

My father, a topchi (gunner), who spent his initial years of illustrious army service during the Raj, taught me to do the right things. Always! These were just plain old simple rights holding universal approval irrespective of your race, religion, nationality, or gender.

And then, in trying to keep up with my fatherly obligations, I have related my share of real life anecdotes with my children, sans Sheikh Saadi’s wisdom of course, hoping to raise them better persons than I.

This letter that I shared is the epitome of what I would have written to my son’s teacher had I been as great a thinker as Shiekh Saadi or Lincoln.

As I write this first blog let me be upfront and not claim that all I write is going to be original stuff. It can be from me, you, your brother-in-law or sister-in-law (I don’t want to be labeled as a chauvinist), or anybody who really wants to add to the wattage of this lighthouse I call Brick by Brick. So, go ahead and share your stories and lessons for I shall be eternally grateful.

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Written by Naveed Gilani

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