The strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” have been wafting through auditoriums, arenas and gymnasiums for several weeks now. They will echo for a while longer, as schools—from kindergarten through university—conclude the academic year and graduates walk the stage to the cheers and applause of delighted family and friends.
To the Class of 2010, here are a few words of encouragement as you ponder what comes next:
Remember, this is only the beginning, not the end. That’s why they call the diploma/degree-conferring ceremony a commencement. Education is preparation. Life is the main event. Whether you just finished kindergarten or earned a Ph.D., the next phase of life is more significant, demanding and meaningful than the one you just completed.
Never stop learning. Do you know folks who haven’t read a book since graduation? Pity. The rate of change occurring in practically every vocation demands continual lifelong education. More significantly, the mind requires stimulation. If you want to be an interesting person, keep on studying, thinking and learning all your life.
Don’t forget the line from the old country song, “Hard work never done a body harm.” Or, as the writer of Ecclesiastes put it, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” If you work hard and give your best effort, you will cut your regrets in half and double your satisfaction in life.
Take time to recharge. This may be your most difficult ongoing challenge. Life will take and take and take from you. So, you have to stop to recharge your batteries. Hear it from someone who’s lousy at this: You need to loaf every now and then. Even Jesus, who crammed eternal ministry into just three years, took time to get away and be still. If he needed it, how much more do we? Consider practicing the Sabbath—not as a rules-oriented task, but as a blessing to your soul.
Eat right and get plenty of exercise. When you’re young, your motivation probably will be looks. If you’re fit, you’re prettier and/or more “buff.” Later, in middle age, you’ll try to do this to stay healthy and productive, because you really will be able to connect the dots between diet, exercise and overall health. If you have a stressful job, you’ll do it to stay sane. And in your old age, if you’ve taken good care of yourself, your mind will remain sharper and your hips limberer, and you will be glad.
Listen to music and read novels. This is sort of like “never stop learning,” but it’s the dessert part of lifelong learning. Good music fires your neurons but also plucks the strings of your heart. And great literature inspires you and makes you think new thoughts.
Laugh. If I have to tell you why, you won’t get it. Just take my word for it. Laugh. Every day.
Give love away. No matter how much math you’ve learned, you’ll never master this equation, but it’s true: The more love you bestow on others, the more you receive.
Tell people you love that you love them. This is almost the same as “give love away,” but it’s to the point. Don’t just show it; say it. If you say it but don’t show it, that won’t count. But you’ll bless the people you love when you tell them you love them.
Take time for family and friends. Sure, you must work hard, but don’t work always. And don’t spend all your other time on yourself. When you’re old, the time you will have treasured most is the time you spent with the people you love. And if you become a parent, remember that “quality time” is a myth. Quantity time produces quality time.
Most of all, glorify God by worshipping the Father, adoring the Son and listening to the Holy Spirit. A life grounded in God, consecrated to Christ and sanctified by the Spirit is the only life worth living.
Marv Knox is editor of the Baptist Standard. Visit his FaithWorks blog.