To Our Boys

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Simon Edgar Fitzpatrick (1873-1959) was my grandfather's brother and partner in their father's Plattsburgh, New York, family construction business, John J. Fitzpatrick and Sons. My sisters recently came across the following notes written to his two sons, John and Martin, offering some fatherly words of wisdom. I thought I might share them with you.


To our boys;

The principal purpose of compiling this brief history of your ancestors is to keep before you, even in your youth, a general idea of who your people were, where they lived, what they did. Facts about your ancestors are easily forgotten. Told to you in your youth, they seem unimportant, but as you grow older you will find them more interesting.

As time goes on you can each add your story to the ones already told. Be sure the part that relates to you brings ought but glory to the name. In looking through this book and comparing the dates you cannot fail to note the brevity of life. Remember, "life is short and time is fleeting, but the grave is not its goal."

You are in this world to carry through your part of a divine plan. So, stand up smiling and face it. "Take up your cross and follow Him."

One of the first things to remember as you start out into life is this -- to be happy and successful you must have a sound, clean body and a sound, clean mind. So, keep well.

Don't work too much, don't play too long. Sleep eight hours every night. Don't fool nature. She is a tardy but an unyielding creditor. She will render to you what you give to her.

Next to good health the very best asset you can have is a cheerful disposition. Be sunny. Remember, most of life's troubles never happen. So smile. Don't be a grouch, for a gloomy person never makes a friend, and you cannot go through life without friends.

Every friend is worth a million dollars. So, save up a lot of friends and be rich.

Don't take everything that comes into your life seriously. Don't forget that the very thing you are doing has been done by many who have gone before you. You are going where they have gone. Others will be along to take it up where you lay it down. Do your best and don't worry about it. Just smile and work.

Let your religion be your prop and comfort, all through life. "When you are weary, go to Him and He will refresh you." Remember this; "seek ye first the kingdom of God and His justice and all things will be added unto you."

In your work don't try to be clever. You will find too much competition.

Be honest and you will find happiness in your work. The fellow who does even an ordinary thing well, will reveal to himself a secret which thrills him with its simplicity and significance.

Don't try to do all things but do what you can, well. Do not be ashamed of the gifts you lack, but of the gifts you squander. You know, "he who seeks one thing and only that one, may hope to achieve it before life is done, but he who seeks all things wherever he goes, only reaps from the hopes which around him he sows, a harvest of barren regrets."

Your greatest enemy will be worry. School yourself to avoid it. Work and forget it. Gather a little happiness every day. If you don't, you won't have any.

If you want to be successful in your work and accumulate this world's goods there are two things you must do: Work hard and save. You cannot succeed if you fail to do both. But in storing up worldly riches, be sure you play the game square.

You will frequently fail to accomplish the things you most desire. You will often measure your length on the ground. But a knock down does not mean a knock out. When you break down with your load, patch up the old wagon and bring it in. Don't quit. When you start a thing see it through. This does not mean foolish things. If you start a fool thing, quit it.

Don't borrow money from your friends. Don't lend them any. Banks are for this purpose. If you want something you cannot afford to buy don't get it on credit. If you do you will be sorry. Save your money until you can afford to pay for it. You will say, oh, that is old stuff. It is. That is what makes it so true. It has been proven.

No man can live his life alone. God gave you everything you have. Not to keep for yourself but to share with your brother.

The greatest joy of life is in sharing what we have. Remember the story of The Other Wise Man. "Who seeks for heaven alone, to save his soul may keep the path but will not reach the goal. While he who walks in love may wander far, but God will bring him where the angels are."

Read the Corporal Works of Mercy. You will find them in your catechism. If you can't find yours, buy one and read it. Don't forget that a kind word and a smile will help many a fellow along with his load. Just give him one.

If he is weary, help him; if he is sorrowful, cheer him; if he is sick, attend him. You may not believe it, but right on your own street are His children who need your help. Corra Harris, wrote this; "It is my secret and scornful belief that many people are in danger of disinfecting themselves out of the kingdom of heaven in their efforts to escape mere physical contagion."

You are not a bit better than the other fellow. God made you both. That other fellow is your brother. You are both going along the same road, both coming to the same end.

Be careful about your appearance. "Clothes don't make the man but they make all of him except his hands and face, during business hours, and that is a considerable area of the human being. A dirty shirt may hide a pure heart but it seldom covers a clean skin. If you look as if you had slept in your clothes, most people will jump to the conclusion that you have and you will never get to know them well enough to explain that your head is so full of noble thoughts that you haven't time to bother with the dandruff on your shoulders."

Live right, for those who know you,

for those who love you, true.

For the Heaven that shines above you,

and awaits your coming to.

For the wrongs that need resistance,

for the cause that needs assistance,

For the future in the distance

and the good that you can do.

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Dan's previously published commentaries can also be viewed on his personal website,
Daniel M. FitzPatrick
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