Oh my sweet, sweet baby girl –

I sometimes pretend that life will always be this way. I’ll always be able to snuggle you right before work and as soon as I come home. I’ll always pick out adorable outfits for you, always be able to hold you close when I wear you in large crowds. Always get to put you to bed and go to my own, assured of your safety and well being. I’ll always be there when you are scared.

I sometimes forget that you will one day grow into a little girl, a teenager, an adult. That one day, I’ll trade my worries of when you’ll grow teeth to when you’ll come home. I forget that one day, you won’t reach for me or your daddy anymore. You’ll reach for your phone, your friends, your boyfriend—someone other than us. In all the innocence that found in the celebration of you discovering how to laugh, how to crawl, how to clap, I forget.

I forget that one day, you’ll be able to comprehend the world we live in and you’ll ask me. You’ll ask me why some hate others for their skin tone, religion, political stance, sexual orientation, gender. You’ll ask me why some children live with just their mommy or just their daddy. Why some come to school hungry. You’ll hear about bullies and pain. Poverty and conflict. Rape and terrorism. Death and dying.

And I, with all the tenderness and bravery and conviction I can muster, have to somehow explain to you the deep, dark, terrible things about this world. That they are real. That they exist.

I never want you to know any of it. But, I would be a terrible mama if I didn’t step into it with you. Tell you. Explain how, if we aren’t careful, our differences with others can lead to fear. If we aren’t careful, our fear can lead to hatred, and hatred can lead to unspeakable things.

Or explain to you how it’s easier to find those who are like you and group together—in order to find safety, community, friendship, love. Seeking these things isn’t bad. But when we build walls around our own groups and call everyone else an outsider, call them wrong because they aren’t like us—it becomes devastating.

My darling girl, I want you to remember something: No matter one’s color, creed, or lifestyle, we all want to go home at night. Remember that everybody is somebody’s baby.

I pause at the enormous task I was given when I became your mama. It is hard to hear the headlines of my city, my country, and my world, knowing that you live here, too. It’s enough to make my heart heavy and wonder how to raise a child in this broken world. Because your safety and well-being are some of the main drivers of my life, I’m so tempted to tell you to hide. To live in the safe neighborhood. To find your own group.

Because the world can be scary and overwhelming and what do we do with the pieces of sky that fall down upon us, our families, our communities, our country, our world?

We start at home. Holding up the sky starts at home.

My job doesn’t stop at telling you about all the sadness this world contains—for which I am so very thankful. The rest of my job—the hopeful yet harder work—is to point you to all the power you possess to ease the burdens of this world. Your world.

You may or may not grow up to lead and move a city or a nation, but you will always have the opportunity to move the heart of the human next to you.

I want to teach you love, grace, compassion, kindness, forgiveness—and maybe most importantly, that all of those things are powerful. More powerful than any method of destruction, because they build up. It’s so, so easy to tear down—tear down with words, with bullying, with guns, with bombs, with violence.

It is a much more grander, more powerful, more difficult thing to build up than to tear down.

You’ll be tempted to do the opposite because it’s easier. To fight back in kind, to withhold forgiveness, to run and hide. Sometimes you will resort to the default of what’s easiest.

But if I could sum up the example I want to model for you and help you live out, it is that you choose the better thing more often than not. That you’ll forgive instead of hold a grudge. That you’ll seek to understand instead of seek to prove a point. That you’ll be curious and celebrate differences instead of resist them.

The better thing is usually not the easiest thing. It may make you afraid sometimes. It takes practice choosing the better thing because it won’t always come natural to you.

But when we know and are guided by the truth that every single boy, girl, man, and woman has inherent dignity and intrinsic worth, it makes so much easier to choose the things that build up, rather than tear down. Not just easier—it becomes necessary. Crucial. Life-changing and world-changing.

I promise to hold and hug you when the world seems scary. And I promise to show you how to be brave in the face of it. I promise that your daddy and I will do all we can to build you up so you can build up the world around you.

Because there’s another thing every human heart wants—and it’s to be a part of something bigger. When we practice the things that build up those around us, we are building something bigger than ourselves, something we all want to be a part of.

Little baby girl, I pause at this task because it is great. It is daunting to bring a little human heart into this world, knowing all this world can contain.

But I’ll choose the better thing for you, my darling. I’ll choose to practice hope in the face of it‚—that I’m building you up and sending you out to make a difference in it.