Graduation is one of the most exciting, hopeful times in life. The graduate stands at the precipice, looking out over the future of their life. It’s a time to pause and reflect upon the commitment and hard work which has led to this point. It’s also a time to look forward, taking a deep breath and contemplating where life is going. It would be wise at this important time to listen to the counsel of older loved ones who have gone before. Graduation time has arrived, but graduation to what?
Many years ago sister Fern Hill wrote a book entitled, Graduation to Glory. It was a touching tribute to her young son, Timothy Hill, who had died at age 16, for whom the Timothy Hill Children’s Ranch would be named. Like so many tragic cases, the young man’s life had been cut short, and he had “graduated to glory.” I think back about my nephew Kevin, who was killed in a motorcycle crash before he had the opportunity to graduate from college. Not every young person gets to enjoy the privilege of graduation, so if you have arrived at this special day, rejoice and be thankful! Pause and consider how blessed you are to be here.
Young person, to what are you graduating? You may be graduating from high school, from technical school, from college, but what are you graduating to? What lies next for you? This is an important question which, hopefully, you have been pondering now for some time. That which comes after graduation is made possible by the hard work and dedication you have demonstrated to this point. All of that study and effort has prepared you for what lies ahead in your life. You will look back on this day many times as you practice the things which have qualified you to receive your diploma. Here are three important considerations as you launch forward at graduation.
1. Take time to thank those who have made your graduation possible. Think about your parents who have paid the bills, or made it possible for you to acquire the loans you needed to get through school. Find a quiet moment to sit down with them and give them a hug and a huge word of thanks. Remember your teachers, especially those special few who have taken a personal interest in you. Take time to thank them, for you may never see them or have the opportunity again. And think about the special friends who have given you the motivation to be in class every day, who have shared the laughter and fun of your school days, and have made it a time on which you will look back with warmth and satisfaction. While the experiences are fresh in your heart, thank them profusely before you move on. And thank God, who has seen you through the tests, the research papers and other projects, and who has never left you. When your name is called to walk across the stage, breath a prayer of thanks to God.
2. Take time to consider carefully where you’re going. You may find that your life takes you in directions you never expected. You may not really pursue a career within the specific major you selected years ago. But the educational process will help you nonetheless. Think about how you can put into practice the social skills you have learned, the understanding of your peers and the complexities of life. Education is more than “book learning.” It’s more than being able to recite facts. It involves learning how to relate to people, how to get along in life. Focus on what you have learned in this area, and how you’re going to put it into practice. Using the education of your mind, don’t forget the education of your heart. Make a commitment to be likable, helpful, friendly and a joy to others. Do not settle for making a living, make a life!
3. Be proud and respectful of your school, your degree, and never look down upon those who did not have your opportunities. I have known many amazing people who never had the chance to go to college, or even complete high school. Many of them sacrificed so that others could do so. Some went to war, some went to work. Many of our colleges and universities were built and funded by people who themselves could never attend. They are the real heroes. They are the ones upon whose shoulders you now stand. Make them proud! And never forget where you have come from. Look around for others younger than yourself who are just getting started, who need a helping hand. You are now in a position to help them like someone helped you. Graduation is an amazing experience. It’s a time of looking back and looking forward, but mostly a time to look up in praise and appreciation to God. Remember, all of us will graduate some day. We will all “walk across that stage” on the last and final day of the Lord. Let’s be sure we are ready to do so, and that we are graduating to an eternal life with God.
-by Robert C. Veil, Jr.