dear graduate

I know this time of year you are perhaps bombarded by words of encouragement, affirmation, and a plethora of gifts.  Enjoy!  You have worked hard and accomplished much.  Granted, some of you have worked harder than others, but the reality today is that this is a unique accomplishment for each of you.  The future is bright.  You have decisions to make.  And those of us watching desire to spur you on.

 

The Intramuralist thus has a few words to share with you, but know this beforehand:  what is shared today is the same regardless of the road travelled or current societal state.  How fragile is the economy, how promising is the job market — each matters less than what I share with you here.  My words will always be the same…

 

First.  Foremost.  Always…

 

Get wisdom.  At all costs, get it.  Cherish it.  Embrace it.  Many things in this world will come and go.  Life will change.  You will experience hardships and joys that are currently inconceivable.  In order to handle each of those well, it is vital that your character is marked by wisdom — more than anything else.  It matters not how rich you are or poor you are if you have not wisdom.  The perceived success of a fool will never be sustained.

 

Next, guard your heart.  Guard everything that flows from it.  I am not encouraging the construction of emotional barricades — obstacles that in the long run are more compatible with foolishness.  No, I am speaking to content.  What’s in your heart.  Keep your mouth free from perversity, and corrupt talk from your lips.  Remember that garbage in your brain means garbage will come out of it.  What’s in your brain impacts your heart.  Guard it.  Keep it pure.  Purity is one of the few things you can never retrieve.

 

Also vital, don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young.  Be an example.  Be an example in what you say, in the way you live… in love, faith, and in that purity.  It is true that we cannot control how other people think; we don’t have to.  Learn that now.  But don’t give those around you — regardless of age — a reason to look down on you.  Your youth is not a liability.  Rather, it is a gift.  A contagious gift!  There is a freshness and a clean-slate-attractiveness that prompts the rest of the world to watch you.  Use that gift well.  Be intentional in what you say, how you live, what you do.  One of the biggest mistakes people make this day — also regardless of age — is that they fail to be intentional.  They let life “just come to them.”  And then they get to the end of a day or the end of a year or perhaps the end of a life and think, “What did I do?”  “Where did my time go?”  “What did I actually invest in?”  Have an answer to that question.  Invest in what is good and pure and noble and right.

 

Know, too, that there is right and wrong in this world.  That’s a hard thing to admit.  We don’t like to acknowledge the wrong, and the reality is that many persons acknowledge wrongful thinking or behavior in irreverent ways.  Yet if you fail to acknowledge the existence of wrong and/or evil on this planet, you will be more be susceptible to the accompanying foolishness.

 

One more thing:  act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.  It’s a 3 part process, and many become passionately unbalanced because they omit one of the imperative parts…

 

If you are just but not merciful, your heart has hardened; a hardened heart hurts its possessor most…

If you are merciful but not just, you have lost your ability to reason.  There are reasonable consequences for actions and choices.  Those consequences empower growth.  The challenge is that we typically don’t like to experience any negative; we prefer an easier way…

And if you fail to be humble, an arrogance will begin to permeate all you think and do.  You will think too much of yourself.  Instead of seeing all things as a gift from God, you will think of yourself as a gift to all things.  That boastful perch will impede your wisdom — regardless of your IQ score.  Intelligence matters far, far less than wisdom.

 

Well done, graduate.  Have fun.  Life should be fun!  Remember the future is bright.  Pursue it with joy.  As you keep your focus on what’s ahead of you, encourage one another.  Serve.  Reach out to those who have lesser.  Learn from waiting.  Learn more from suffering.  Watch your words.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Don’t wear yourself out to get rich.  Don’t trust your own cleverness.  Let love and faithfulness never leave you.  Resist bitterness.  Avoid comparison.  Don’t envy.  Value wisdom.  Value wisdom most.  Be intentional.  And always remember:  there is hope for you.

 

Blessings… always…

AR

special

There are some days that put life in perspective.

 

… a day when the weight of the world seems secondary… when we forget about the future consequences of today’s actions… some that will be good… some that will not… many of which are not discernible no matter how loud the proclamation of the passion…

 

… we forget those days the increasingly inimical polarization… the attitudes that boldly call opposition arrogant… forgetting that when we steadfastly announce the arrogance in others, we oft foreshadow the conceit in ourselves…

 

Hence, we are thankful for those days that put life in perspective — as yesterday was for me.

 

A couple hundred athletes.

A grandstand full of fans.

Spirited competition.

Multiple events.

And vocal enthusiasm for absolutely every athlete — every adult and child — who crossed the finish line.

 

The first Special Olympics was held in 1968, after a Chicago P.E. teacher approached Eunice Kennedy Shriver, JFK’s sister, about funding an Olympic-style athletic competition for people with special needs.  Today the competition provides opportunity for more than 3.7 million athletes in over 170 countries, offering year-round training and competition in 32 Olympic-style summer and winter sports.  Yesterday was the track and field competition in our city.

 

Initially, I stood in quiet awe — witnessing the sustained, contagious cheers from the crowd regardless of placement, regardless of time necessary for individual completion.  As the runners sprinted around the track — some stopping for breaks when necessary — I was touched by their ability, perseverance, and determination.

 

Better yet was the look on the faces of so many.  Atypical of most competitions, a majority of participants sprinted and jumped with a countenance of great, great, obvious joy.  It was amazing, and it, too, was contagious.  (“All competitions should be that way,” I thought… for kids… adults… with or without a disability… sports, politics…)

 

A couple of quick personal notes…

 

First, I’m proud of my son.  This parent cries more these days than I ever imagined.  Thanks much in part to Josh, those cries are also full of joy.

 

Secondly, we owe significant thanks to the coaches and teachers who have walked alongside our Special Olympians.  From each of us who is blessed to parent a special needs child, we are overwhelmingly thankful for those who selflessly invest in our kids, encouraging both them and us along the way.

 

Yet perhaps the most poignant perspective of the day was offered by one teenage runner.  She had great form, solid strides, and was swift around the track.  As she ran an entire 400 meters, the crowd seemed well aware of the amazing accomplishment.  She was good!  She was fast.  The 14-15 year old girl was accompanied by another gal, to whom she was loosely tethered.  But in her we were each reminded of the beauty of these games — and the meaning of the moment…

 

As their mission says, the Special Olympics gives athletes “continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.”  Such was obvious in this one, young runner.

 

She strode around the track with speed, grace, and that unprecedented joy, anchoring her team’s relay.  Each of us watching paused — clapped — amazed.

 

She was blind.

 

Respectfully,

AR