Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Class of 2008, Baccalaureate, May 29
The following is the Baccalaureate speech I gave to the 2008 Class at Ridgecoft School on May 29 of that year. Feeling the need to put it out there:
Good evening Ridgecroft faculty and staff, parents, family, friends, and you, the Class of 2008. It’s an honor to be speaking tonight at this auspicious occasion, along with Rev. Greg Barrick. Congratulations to you, the Class of 2008!
As I prepared for tonight I thought back to when I was 17, 18. What would I have wanted my Baccalaureate speaker to say that I didn’t already know? That would have been a non-existent speech, because at 17 and 18, I already knew everything. But if there HAD to be a speech, I’d want them at least to tell me the truth and speak to me as an adult! Well, tonight there HAVE to be speeches, two in fact. So I’m going to talk to you like adults and tell you the truth about some things. Listen up!
Show of hands: how many of you know, right now, exactly what you’re going to do with your life after graduation? You’ve got your plans for your future mapped out and you’re ready to begin? How many, raise your hands. Ok, hands down. Everybody else that’s over 30, show of hands, think back to when you were 17 or 18 and ready to graduate from high school. Try and remember, how many of you had your life planned and mapped out and you knew exactly what you wanted to do with your life and you knew exactly how your life would be? Education, career, future family, and anything else. Be honest! Show of hands. Now, for all of you with your hands raised, how many of you would say that those high school plans panned out just like you had figured? Put your hands down if life has not worked out just like you had originally planned.
Seniors, remember that. Parents, remember that when your child comes home and says they’re changing their major and they’ll have to stay in college another semester, another year. Remember that when they come home and say “I’m getting married…next month!”
When I was your age, my bags were packed for Meredith College where I was going to major in Biology and one day discover the cure for cancer. Before that first semester was over I was going to also take photography so I could take pictures for textbooks that showed stuff under the microscope…and…cure cancer. By the end of my freshman year, I was making plans to transfer to Chowan, major in Religion and plan my wedding. When I was 33 I got “the call” and I was going to do what I needed to do to be a prison chaplain rejoicing that God had NOT called me to the pulpit where I’d have to PREACH! We plan and God laughs and he still gets laughs with that one! It took several more years, but now I preach twice each Sunday, two different pulpits! You will make God laugh! I promise! And that’s OK!
Don’t be so married to your plans that you don’t leave room for LIFE! Keep growing and learning. You’ll learn new things about yourself. You’ll discover interests and talents that right now you don’t know you have. Life is in a constant state of flux. Does that mean not to make plans? No! Absolutely not! Make plans but don’t set them in stone and sign them with blood! Allow for life’s twists and turns, because they WILL happen!
That well-known quote-meister, the Apostle Paul, once wrote, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I became an adult, I set aside childish ways.” Class of 2008, you are leaving your childhood behind and your adult years loom. You’ve had people tell you that you are our future. Well, there’s something else you need to know, adult to adult. You are our “right now”! You always have been. You don’t have to wait for some distant, magical time when you can, all of a sudden, matter in this world and make a difference. Sometimes we older adults can get cynical and think one person doesn’t matter; one person can’t change the world. Class of 2008, that’s so wrong! You have the power and the ability to change the world, but first you have to CHOOSE to. You have the choice of how to spend your time. You choose whether to use your time constructively, destructively, or just waste it. You choose whether to make someone’s day brighter, to lend a helping hand, to think beyond yourself, to be part of something bigger than yourself. You choose! And when you change just ONE person’s day for the better…you’ve changed the world. You don’t know the ripple effect that will take place from one simple act of kindness. You make a difference by being here. YOU choose the kind of difference you’ll make.
I’m going to tell you something else, adult to adult. You have a purpose in this world! You weren’t put here because God had nothing better to do that day. You’re here because God has a plan and you fit in it. There are certain facts in this world and you can’t change them by simply saying I don’t believe and you can’t change facts because you may not like particular facts. I’ve never understood why four plus four equals eight. But it does. Seems rather arbitrary to me. Why can’t four plus four equal twenty-three? I can go around saying I believe 4 + 4= 23 and I can live my life as if that’s true. But I cannot change the fact that 4 + 4=8.
No matter how you live your life and no matter what you may say you believe, you cannot change the fact of God’s existence and you cannot change the fact that he loves you, has a purpose for you, and wants to direct your steps and hear from you in prayer.
You are important! Your life matters! What you do with it now and in the future is important! You graduate high school tomorrow and you will all be choosing different paths. Some of you will go to college. You may get a job. You may get married. You may join the military. You may still not know what you want to do. Look at the big picture; think with your brain and maybe sometimes your heart, but not with your hormones. When you think you know all the answers, accept the fact that maybe you don’t and ask for help and wisdom. Look at your parents. They really do know a lot! They really are in your corner! They really do love you with every fiber of their being! They really are so proud of you they burst every time they think of you! They really don’t think they’re only here to annoy you. They have devoted themselves to raising you and sacrificed to provide for you because they love you and want the best for you.
As you take your place in the adult world, make them proud. Be honorable and honest, compassionate and polite, intelligent and disciplined. Be adults. Wear your seatbelts. Pay your bills, live within your means, be responsible, take responsibility, don’t point the finger of blame. Be an adult. Don’t take your diploma tomorrow and rest on the laurels of that accomplishment. Be an adult and move on to your next goal.
When I was your age I often asked permission to do things and sometimes my Mama would say, “No.” and my Daddy would say, “Bettie, we have to let her try her wings.” I knew that meant I’d get to do what I wanted. I never understood how hard those words were for my Daddy to say until I had children of my own. It’s not always easy to watch you try your wings. We, your parents, your grandparents, your teachers and Sunday school teachers, all those who have played a part in your life, know some of life’s lessons that you have yet to learn and we’ve tried to prepare you.
The time has come for you to do more than just try your wings. The time has come for you to fly! Don’t just settle for “flying!” SOAR! Soar like eagles! And when you look at us and you see a glimmer of tears in our eyes, know that they’re not tears of sadness. They are tears that reflect the pride in our hearts. The road hasn’t always been easy to get you to this point; there have been pebbles and maybe a few rocks. But you will always be our children and we will always be here for you, encouraging your flight. The flight won’t always be smooth; you will have times you swoop and times you dodge and times you have mid-air collisions. Sometimes you’ll have to come in for a landing and re-evaluate your flight plan. That’s OK. We can let you take flight because we know the One who flies with you.
You are each in different places on your spiritual journeys. Some of you may have strong faith; some of you have doubts and questions; some of you have disbelief. Wherever you are, God’s there and we place our trust and hope in Him.
Soar. Grow. Dream. Achieve. And do it in abundance! And may God hold you in the palm of His hand. Amen.
Rev. Carol Taylor, Mom of James Mitchell Taylor, Class of 2008, Baccalaureate, May 29