Many years ago, when I was much younger and much, much wiser, I fancied myself to be something of a writer with a capital “W”.

In fact, my first book was going to be a primer for high school seniors setting forth into the big, bad world.

Well, like so many things in life, I didn’t get around to writing that book. But not too long ago, my wife and I ran across a 20-year-old letter written to her by an elderly neighbor during her first few months at college.

It didn’t take long to recognize this letter as everything my book could have been, and I hope it still holds meaning for today’s graduating seniors, as well as those of us who graduated a long, long time ago.

Dear Sally:

While we are at home, we are surrounded by friends who cheer us with their friendship, concern and love. When we step out to make our own way, we find an entirely different world – one that often seems indifferent, even hostile.

During my freshman year, one of the first things our English professor had us do was write an essay: Why am I going to college?

I thought he wanted us to tell the truth. I did. I wrote that I wanted to learn how I could make myself a more useful citizen – hopefully, a benefactor of my fellow man, even in a small way.

The professor not only gave me a failing grade, he took the occasion to criticize me and humiliate me before my classmates.

I had supposed that BIG MEN were in big places. I was wrong. I found out that there are times when LITTLE MEN are in big places.

But I do believe it taught me a lesson – to strive to convert our stumbling blocks into stepping stones.

He said we were in college simply to learn how to make a living. Aren’t you sorry for someone who has such a narrow, distorted view of life?

Sally, you know your family and friends have confidence in you, love you and know you will give to life the best of which you are capable. You can hold your head high and not be afraid.

When LITTLE PEOPLE have gone and been forgotten, you will still be loved and cherished by those who had the good fortune to cross your path.

I have found that when one door closes, another usually opens, to a brighter view and greater horizons.

If, at times, you feel discouraged or defeated, get this little note out and re-read it. I hope it might give a bit of life to your spirit.

With best wishes, Mr. Machotka.