The Teacher Being Taught

Today’s guest letter comes from Justin York, father to a 2+ year-old beauty named Lily. He’s a Scientist extraordinaire(literally, he has his Doctorate in Cellular and Molecular Biology) and a thrill seeker to boot, having scaled and climbed mountains across the world. He lives in Tempe, AZ and teaches Biology and Anatomy/Physiology at Glendale Community College. This is his first guest post on The Dad Letters.

Dear Lily,

Hi sweetheart, it’s Dad.

Since this is my first letter to you, I thought I would offer you my (not so) sagely advice regarding life and happiness. But when I got to thinking about it, you already know and practice many of these things daily…so it’s more likely I’m really learning from you. Let me try to articulate these ideas and perhaps we can learn from each other.

Be Grateful.
Like any parent I want the best for you. I want you to be happy in life and love and, in my opinion, one of the best ways to do this is to live with a sense of gratitude. It is perhaps the easiest to do and easiest to forget. Our home is warm and happy. You are surrounded by people who love and adore you. You have a healthy body and mind, continually growing and learning. You have opportunities to play, dance, explore, dream, and learn. You have a safe place to make mistakes. At the end of each day, you have a warm hug and goodnight kiss waiting for you. Life truly is a miracle, as your presence reminds me every day, and when approached with a sense of appreciation, it permeates every area of your life and makes it hard not to be happy.
Be Curious.
You are already a pro at my second topic. In fact, even your choice in favorite cartoon characters exemplifies my point (“This is George. He was a good little monkey and always very curious…”). I love watching you explore – not only the world around you, but also the world inside you. Your mind and body take just as much exploration as our walk in the forest, the garden, or the latest park. However, it is far too easy to lose an inquisitive mind as you get older…but as a scientist (geek) who is naturally seeking answers, I want you to exceed my “why’s”. I will never tire of you asking. I promise to explore with you, experience with you, and adventure with you. Our world (again, inside and outside of us) is full of natural wonders, and although we will never find many answers (which, I think, is a good thing), there is much to gain from trying.
Surround Yourself With Love.
Again, you are adept at my final point as well. Every night when I tuck you in, you are surrounded by your greatest friends. Elmo, Big Bird, Super Why, Princess P, Baby Anna, and Baby Malin (the doll edition), like a ring of sentinels set to guard your slumber. These are your little friends and, even though they are purchased from the store and stuffed with cotton, in your eyes their love for you is unconditional. As it should be in life. Surround yourself with people who love you. In the end, love is really all that matters. It’s so cliche’ I almost didn’t write it, but I really feel it to be true. As a self-proclaimed loner who is very comfortable exploring solo, I used to think all I needed to be happy was a backpack and some beautiful mountains. Through several experiences, including a trip to the Himalaya – the greatest mountains in the world – I was still missing something in my life. Mountains and cars and houses don’t compare to being with people you love. Ask anyone who has lived a full life. Ask anyone approaching their final days. Love is where God resides, and that’s a really good place to be.
I want to finish by thanking you. Being your father is the single greatest honor of my life. As a new parent I have no expectations, but even so, I am still surprised at how much joy you bring into my life. Oh, and thanks for making me into a mushy, emotional sap. I can’t even see you playing with a school backpack without tearing up (you’ll be going to school way to soon!). You’re my beautiful baby girl; my spunky, sweet little Lily, and as you grow, I have a feeling I’ll be tearing up pretty often. A pretty small price to pay.
I love you,


  1. Wow, an exceptional letter. I am especially impressed this comes from a scientist. Clearly one who has his mind balanced by an open heart and with the courage to express it. Well done Justin, Lily is a very lucky little girl !

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