Tom McQueen’s intentions with these letters to his grandson, Ethan, are to share with him those lessons that have shaped his “journey here on earth with the hope that he would someday find those insights meaningful to his own life”. Each of the 33 letters is about four to five pages long, with all of them being headed up by a relevant quotation from a range of deep-thinking and compassionate individuals, including Mother Teresa and Indira Ghandhi. I especially enjoyed the first letter that describes what McQueen regards as the most important lesson that he has ever learned throughout his entire life, in which a classful of over-confident young college students flunks an end of semester test because none of them has ever bothered to find out the name of the cleaning lady whom they had passed at work several times a day. Lesson learned: “the single most important purpose for living is to know people, to engage people, and to uplift people.”
The letters are presented in such a way as to make them most easily accessible to those who read them. Starting with his own experiences, Tom McQueen then tends to open up to sharing an anecdote involving others that is relevant to the theme of the letter, before concluding with the lesson learned. He ends off several of the letters with a poem gleaned from a range of other sources, some of which he has adapted to convey his meaning more clearly. Though the topics covered are broad in nature, including heroism, integrity and leadership, McQueen’s solid Christian footing is at the base of them all. Even so, he has does not overwhelm us with pious sentiment, but adopts a very practical, down home approach to what he has to say.
Tom McQueen is an ideal author of such a text, as, in addition to being a man of well evolved faith, he is also a licensed marriage and family therapist and president of the American Family Foundation. Of Letters to Ethan, McQueen writes “We live in an era where technology has taken us away from relationships and family. My goal with Letters to Ethan is to encourage people to return to spending time with their families and developing these relationships.”
Letters to Ethan would make an ideal gift for any child, whether girl or boy. The sound moral and ethical base of these life lessons, told with mature and reasoned good sense, ensures that the content of these letters provides much over which to ponder. They would make an ideal springboard for intimate family discussions, and could also be used for father–son encounter groups and workshops.