It doesn't seem fair, does it? You put in 13 years of hard time and before they spring you have to wear a long, hot gown and a funny square hat with strings hanging from it. Then you have to listen to someone tell you how much promise you have and how you can truly change the world.
To top it off you have to march to some ancient tune in front of hundreds of misty-eyed relatives to be handed an imitation leather folder that, by itself, won't get you a cup of coffee at McDonald's.
Life has changed a great deal in the 48 years since I graduated from high school but this archaic custom continues. And 20-some years from now you'll be a misty-eyed parent excitedly watching your kid march to the same old tune in front of several hundred other misty-eyed relatives. Some things don't change.
It's amazing how much you have learned in the past thirteen years. It's even more amazing how much more you'll learn in the years ahead. Here's a starter set of Life's Lessons to give you a good lead in the race:
Life's Lesson No. 1: Your parents were right most of the time. Sure, they slipped up once-in-a-while; we all do. But as time goes on you'll hear yourself repeating the very phrases you have detested hearing for so many years. It's one of Mother Nature's little jokes.
Life's Lesson No. 2: There will come a day when you will start to gain weight after consuming two large pizzas, a quart of ice cream and four liters of Coke. Enjoy your metabolism while you have it.
Life's Lesson No. 3: The world's most beautiful people are not necessarily the world's most beautiful people.
Life's Lesson No. 4: Money won't buy happiness and love won't put food on the table.
Life's Lesson No. 5: Life is far too serious to not laugh at it once in a while; do it at least three times daily!
Life's Lesson No. 6: Your place in this world has a rental fee; it's called involvement. Participation in a community (or church, club, etc.) is the rent we pay for living here. People who enjoy the benefits of a good community without putting something back into it are freeloaders.
Life's Lesson No. 7: It's better to go through life wanting something you don't have than having something you don't want.
Life's Lesson No. 8: If you put all the Democrats and all the Republicans in a big bag and shook them up, it would be a very good thing. I really shouldn't joke about politics. "The problem with political jokes," wrote Henry Cate VII, "is they get elected." Vote anyway. And vote for the candidate; not the party.
Life's Lesson No. 9: When someone says "trust me," don't. Trustworthy individuals demonstrate their trustworthiness daily; they don't have to ask you for your trust.
Life's Lesson No. 10: Stand up for what you believe. We should be slow to judge others and quick to admit when we're wrong. However, we should also be bold enough to stand up for what we believe is right. We live in a society that is becoming value-less; we need more citizens who are willing to voice their convictions. I've been teased, chided and criticized for some of my beliefs. The embarrassment of that derision, however, was far less uncomfortable than the shame I've felt when I have failed to stand up for what I believe to be right.
Life's Lesson No. 11: Don't be afraid to make a mistake. "That's why they put the rubber on the pencil," Grandpa Huisman used to say, "so we can start over."
Life's Lesson No. 12: Don't compare anything in real life with what you see on television.
Life's Lesson No. 13: Don't wait until you're in the depths of despair before you seek God's help. If you don't pray until you're in trouble, you're in trouble.
Now there are some lessons you probably won't get in college. And I don't charge tuition!
Best wishes, grads. You really do have a lot of promise and you truly can change the world!
Your old friend,