What I’d Say

pic of class of 1986It was twenty-seven years ago today that I graduated from high school. Wow. I graduated from the same high school that my Daddy graduated from, and we even had a couple of the same teachers. He graduated before segregation and before the new campus was built–his school combined with two other schools to form the one I attended. The administration let me wear his honor cords in addition to mine, and that meant so much to me. Twenty-five years after him, I walked down the aisle and had the honor of speaking at graduation.

My uncle called a few days ago to ask if Aub had ever read “The Prophet” by Khalil Gibran. It touched my heart that he cared enough to call and ask. And it reminded me of Daddy–because he often suggested books that she should read (or that I needed to read), and because Daddy liked Khalil Gibran too. I was pleased to be able to tell my Uncle that I had given Aub a copy of the book for Christmas, to remember and honor Daddy and to enlighten her. She read it right away.

All this got me to thinking about my own graduation so many years ago. I had just found Khalil Gibran myself, and my seventeen year old self was very enamored with the thoughts and words he wrote. I even started my speech with a quote from him: “Only once have I been made mute. It was when a man asked me, ‘Who are you?'”  And went on from there.

Yeah, I was quite the great thinker back then. Ahem.

And so, I’ve thought a little more today about something that came to me when I attended my daughter’s graduation two weeks ago. What would I say today, if I were asked to speak at a graduation.

First I would tell them they won’t remember a thing I’m going to say. Because that is probably the way it will be.

Then I’d keep talking anyway. There’s some irony in that, I guess. Like the person who buys what they would want as a gift for someone else.

But I digress.  I would continue–

pic of khalil gibran truth quote

Seek truth.  Not the truth.  Just truth.  Seek and then act.  For justice.  For love.  For widsom.

The adults in your life will disappoint. As you grow older, they will, at some point, let you down. They are not perfect. They are human.  We all are.  Don’t let the disappointment change who you are.

At some point, you will make a choice and you will disappoint yourself. It’s going to happen. More than once, most likely.  Give yourself grace. Learn from that choice. Admit mistakes.  Ask forgiveness.  Move on.

It’s easy to waste time on things that don’t matter. Just make sure you don’t waste time or energy on things that can hurt people.   Like judging those different from you. Or hating the person rather than the action.

Or letting your frustration with one part of a person or church or  job or situation make you blind to the good in it or them.

Don’t waste time not letting your authentic self shine.

Be authentic. Be you. But don’t make it about you.   If you are a crocheter in the midst of knitters, crochet away, but love those knitters.  If you are a yellow in a sea of green, shine on so we can see their green too.  If you are a singer surrounded by dancers, belt it out and smile while you’re doing it, singing a tune the others can dance to.  Don’t go against who you are. Life is too short to pretend you are what or who you are not.  Or to pretend that you are not who you really are.

But on that same note, don’t take yourself so seriously.  You’re going to do great things, but you’re also going to mess up.  Truth.  And the only way you can do great things is to try.  So when you mess up, try again.  The great will come.  As my parents used to say, “Keep on keepin’ on.”

Take lots of pictures of you WITH the people you love.  Not just OF the people you love.  One day you will be very glad you did.

Surround yourself with people who get things done.  People who laugh.  Laugh a lot.  People who celebrate the small things as much as the great things in life.  People who find reasons to be joyful.  People who can encourage without knocking you down because they are insecure.  People who love like the stuff grows on trees.  Yeah, those folks.  Hard times are not an IF scenario, but a WHEN.  These folks are the ones who will help you through.  Just as you will help them as you sit with them in their darkness.

You can never say “I love you” or “I appreciate you” too much.  Make time to find something to be thankful for and give thanks.  Learn to see beauty when you look in the mirror.  And in things and people around you.  Be a good listener.  Share your stories, but not your drama.  Take walks and breathe deeply.

Read great books.  And fluff.  Try new foods.  You never know what you might like.  Put the cell phone down and talk with those around you.  Look them in the eyes. Say hello and learn the names of the people whom you see–the mail carrier, the parking deck cashier, the person who makes your coffee, the people who live on your street.  They matter.  You matter.  In the end, that’s what we all want–to have sought truth, found some, to love and be loved, and to have mattered.

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Today I’m thankful for an Uncle who cares what my girl reads.  I am thankful for the memory of my own graduation, the most precious part being the connection I felt to Daddy throughout the whole thing.  I appreciate those who have the courage to speak at these ceremonies and to share their thoughts, especially those who tell it like it is.  And I’m thankful for my Daddy who introduced seventeen year old me to Khalil Gibran, who had some great things to say, and I’m thankful for my seventeen year old, who has found her own love for the words written so long ago.

Picture from Gibran Monument by Julie Flygare

Picture from Gibran Monument by Julie Flygare

“You are my brother and I love you. I love you worshipping in your church, kneeling in your temple, and praying in your mosque. You and I and all are children of one religion, for the varied paths of religion are but the fingers of the loving hand of the Supreme Being, extended to all, offering completeness of spirit to all, anxious to receive all.”–Khalil Gibran