This is a blog post and excerpt from my book, Life Lessons from Dad: 101 Ways to Get More From Life (From Someone Who Loves You).

The book is literally written to my children (Mandy, Aly, and The Amazing Alec) to be a sort of ‘handbook for life,’ for them as they become adults.

It covers lessons on the Heart, Mind, Body, and Soul–and a broad range of life situations from loving yourself and fighting the darkness (depression) to practical matters like getting every job you ever want and how to get rid of bad habits.

This particular life lesson is on being your brother’s keeper. It’s all about how you treat others.

Thank you for your time in reading this.

–Chip

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To be your brother’s keeper means to consider your neighbor’s needs at all times, whether they are present or not.

It is your job to be your brother’s keeper. I mean this literally, with Alec, and in a deeper sense in life towards others as well.

I don’t know that I really need to remind you to be Alec’s keeper. I’m actually looking at you, girls, while I’m writing this. I see the love of life and joy on your faces. I watch you with your brother often and see how much you love that little man. And how much he loves you, too.

I think one of the greatest moments for me as your Dad was to hear you two arguing, kind of half-seriously, half-jokingly over who Alec was going to, “live with,” when he got older. I love that, and I really feel that one or both of you truly and honestly plan on having him stay with you when, maybe, he won’t be living with your Mom and I, as we are thirty-seven and half and thirty-nine years older than our little man, respectively. The truth is, I think about this a lot; because when he’s forty, I’ll be eighty. I don’t know what life will look like then, but I want to know that we have options. It can be him living with his friends and/or independently, or it can be that he lives with and is looked out for by his loving sisters.

I think you know the most of the story about Alec’s birth, but I’m going to take a little time to tell you the details. Mandy, you were twelve at the time, and Aly you were eight. I know your part with Alec was very vivid. I don’t know if you know everything that your Mom and I went through at that time.

It was the hardest thing that either of us had ever been through, by far; but it also turned into the most beautiful experience in our lives, afterward. I hope you feel that way, too. I know having a brother with Down Syndrome isn’t easy. It’s a big responsibility, and it’s not necessarily something that you asked for in this life. We’re just blessed in that regard, I guess.

Your Mom and I decided that we’d have a third child. Your Mom was a little more reluctant than I was, but my reasoning to her made sense: We’d never regret having another member of the Franks’ brood, but there would be a big chance that we would regret not having a third. Both of you brought (and still bring!) much joy into our lives. Of all the things that we’ve done in the world, bringing our children in it, as the people that you are is our proudest.

After a gut-wrenching miscarriage, which we should talk to you more about. We knew that our baby boy would be coming into our side of the world on your Guela’s (grandmother’s) birthday: October 25th, 2011. What a day it was! We had an appointment at the hospital because they were going to induce labor for our new addition to the family. We knew he was a boy, and that everything seemed to be fine and he was healthy. Your Mom and I didn’t want to do any advanced testing, as it posed a risk to the baby; and it wouldn’t have mattered to us if he was born with defects or problems. We’d welcome him, regardless. We knew that he’d have an increased chance for a diagnosis of Down Syndrome, whereas there was usually a one in 700 or more chance for it, Mom’s age would mean that it was more like a one in 157 possibilities. But we never thought that it would happen. We had a pretty storybook life up to that time in our life.

We were happy and joyful going to the hospital. There is an “official thread of the birth of Alec Cruz Franks,” where we promised to keep everyone updated on his entry into the world, and joked around quite a bit. It was new and different then for a birth to be shared over social media. Everything went well, which is easy for me to say, as I wasn’t giving birth. This was our third time, and we had a comfortable familiarity with the process. The same wonderful doctor that had delivered both of our sweet girls was there to help us usher your brother into the world.

I was in the room when he was born as I was with each of you. They keep a sheet up between the lower half of Mom’s body and the upper half, so I was able to be close to her, and hold her hand as Alec was delivered via a C-section. As it happened with both of you, I cried tears of joy when I heard your brother’s voice for the first time ever, crying a little (but not too much). They cleaned and handed him to me as they cut the cord, and I was the first person to be in front of him when he opened his eyes for the first time.

And I knew.

Right away, I knew that Alec was different, and that he had Down Syndrome, and that our lives were never, ever going to be the same. It was a shocking, numbing experience to know that right away.

Your Mom was having a minor procedure done while they were in there, to get her tubes tied, and I was left holding our precious little man, just staring into his face, and those tell-tale almond shaped eyes for a good forty-five minutes. It seemed like forever, and as light as he was, my arms were getting numb (like my soul at the time) from holding him so long.

I was thinking over and over in my head that this couldn’t be. Our life had been pretty picture perfect to that point. No big shocks, surprises, or deaths for someone close in our family. This was the most traumatic thing that had ever happened. I was looking at this sweet, wonderful face, and I’m ashamed (but have since forgiven myself) to say that the first thing on my mind wasn’t how much I loved him. It was just shock and a kind of mourning for the child we had planned for. I was grieving. I know I SAID all of the right things to him, but it was more a sense of despair than joy at the time. I don’t know if that makes sense to you or not; or to anyone that hasn’t gone through something like this.

I remember telling both your Pa-paw and your Uncle Mike (as he was driving you to the hospital). Uncle Mike just asked me, “What’s wrong, what is it?” because he knew that something was wrong when I talked to him. I couldn’t even speak. I just cried, and cried. He kept asking what it was. Wow, I’m getting so emotional right now even writing about it, it’s all still so vivid in my mind, and probably will be forever. Your granddad was on a bike ride at the time, and he pulled over and talked to me, and I remember him saying when I said the words, “Down Syndrome,” that we were going to love him completely no matter what, and that it would be okay.

But it was still a while before it became “okay” for us. Those first two days after his birth, knowing he had DS, and also would require several surgeries in his first few weeks of life were the hardest, toughest, DARKEST days in my life. I know it was for your Mom, too. She had it worse than me, because she wasn’t allowed to see Alec due to being confined to her room while he was in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). I had him to look at, to touch and caress in his bed, and your Mom was just left by herself in a dark room with the most horrible scenarios running through her head. I became okay by being with Alec, and getting to know him and his indomitable spirit, even at a few days old. I looked into his face and fell in love with that sweet boy and knew he would have my soul forever then (like you two do).

We made the announcement to the world the day after he was born, and after we told you that he had Down Syndrome. We kept everyone up to date with him and his (and our) ordeals on Facebook, and we were overwhelmed with support. We’d get little notification, “dings,” with every comment of love and support and they were like the sound of an angel at the time. You know what happened with the “Hope” hearts—Mandy, when you posted that you’d write a blue heart on your hand with the word “Hope,” on it to support your little brother and that was posted on Facebook. We suddenly started getting these hearts sent to us on Facebook from literally all over the world. From our friends and family, but also from Marines, from people in Canada and Australia, and in different languages. It was amazing and humbling, and meant so, so much to us.

We didn’t get to bring him home until Thanksgiving Day, a full month after he was born. He went through seven surgical procedures in his first six months of life, and earned the moniker, “The Amazing Alec.” He’s usually had at least one long hospital visit each year, and that part isn’t easy, but having him, and seeing YOU with him is such a joy of life!

I think you’d agree that he’s expanded all of our hearts, and that he’s made each of us more compassionate. He’s also brought so much joy and happiness just by who he is and what he does each day. He is an unfiltered light from God, and the sweetest, most affectionate boy we could ever imagine. I see you with him, and I don’t know if any feeling on Earth is better than watching y’all being so sweet and loving towards each other.

So, when I say, “Be your brother’s keeper,” I mean it in the literal sense. You didn’t ask for a brother with Down Syndrome, but he is still your responsibility too. I expect that of you if your Mom and I are somehow unable to watch him, or we’ve left the physical plane of our existence.

Please promise your Mom and I that you will always have him, and care for him. I’m pretty certain that you do already; but those words would mean the world to us.

Now, here’s the other part of this advice: Be your brother’s keeper in the larger sense of the world, too. By that, I mean always consider your neighbor as well as yourself at all times, even if they’re not with you.

This is Biblical in nature, but I just think that it makes for a better, richer, and deeper life when you’re looking out for someone else. That may mean little things like picking up trash that someone else left behind, or pausing to talk to someone that looks like they are lonely. It also means big things, like choosing a career that makes a difference to others, or trying to fulfill potential given to you by God.

I’ve written that YOU being happy is the best thing that you can do for others, and I think that some of that happiness is, or probably should be dependent on whether you’re being your brother’s keeper in the larger sense of the term. Would you truly be happy with yourself if you spent your career pushing gambling, or drinking sodas when you know it’s not right for most people? I don’t know. Obviously, you make the call on that—but I want you to consider your brother when you do these things. Are you your brothers’ keeper?

Answering “yes,” to that question is the right way to live, and I humbly suggest it for it you.

I hope you see and understand that I love you.

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Life Lessons from Dad: 101 Ways to Get More From Life (From Someone Who Loves You) was released this month and is available on Amazon now.

It can be found at: bit.ly/lifelessonsfromdad


Chip Franks was born at the crossroads of the world in Killeen, Texas. He has spoken on the same stages at events with Tony Robbins, Peter Diamandis, Lewis Howes, Daymond John, and Simon Sinek. He’s read over 1,000 books. He is a podcast junkie, and a consummate student of life with mentors such as Robbins, Jim Rohn, Henry David Thoreau, Seneca and Joseph Campbell.  Most importantly to you reading this-he specializes in providing easily actionable ways to improve life.