This weekend I attended my oldest son’s college graduation. He plans to pursue a four-year degree in Communications with a minor in Youth Ministry. But, he chose a small two-year church college, which puts him in the unusual position of having a â€œpre-graduationâ€ on the way to his â€œrealâ€ four-year degree.
The road map for most college students doesn’t include this unusual mid-career crossroads. His plan forces him, in a sense, to stop, check for oncoming traffic and review his travel plans.
It also meant that I get to sit through an extra commencement speech. As I listened, I wondered how the advice he was getting compared to the advice I would have given him? I had the honor of delivering the closing prayer, so I had a double reason to process the question. Not only would I be living with the choices he made, as I think all parents must do, but I would be taking part in his experience by literally praying him into this next step in his career.
The commencement speakers, Tony Brown and Dustin Galyon, co-opted the words of Mahatma Gandhi, calling on the students to â€œBe the changeâ€ in a suffering world. Rather than pursue money, career or any of the other things normally valued by this world we live in, they called on graduates to deliver healing, hope, justice and peace where ever they go. They said we must love the world and show that love to everyone we encounter. They called on them (and on us) to build a world where, 50 years from now, relationships matter. And, not just relationships with family and friends, but relationships that span race, religion, political differences and miles of separation.
This is pretty high-minded thinking. Do I really want my child to make the kind of sacrificial decisions they encouraged? What kind of world would we create if our decisions were governed only by our own needs and wants?
The great paradox is that simply aiming for a life that is safe, happy, successful and family oriented often fails, anyway. What any of us would do to fulfill our wants for today may be the very thing that causes us to miss tomorrow’s achievements.
Good choices are made based on long-term goals, not short-term dreams. Strangely enough, we often gain the most when we serve others. We usually thrive when we have values that matter, and live them day in and day out (even when those same values require us to make tough decisions).
In the end, I accept the challenge to “Be the Change.” Fear may lead me astray, but hopefully faith that I’m doing the right thing, living for what matters and honoring a higher call will bring me back.
PS – Everyone fails from time to time, and I’m no different. So, if you ever see me (or Lehman’s) acting in a way that doesn’t line up with these values, please help me do better by letting me know that I let you down.