FIRST-PERSON: Graduation day’s new start
MELISSA, Texas (BP)--May, the month of dreams, the month of new beginnings for students across America, is now upon us.
This stage in life -- whatever that may be -- finally is finished and the next one can begin. From kindergarten to the eighth grade to high school to college, millions of students look at this achievement as a feather in their cap and a stepping stone to greater glory. This month's calendar is filled with graduation ceremonies, that monument in life to past accomplishment and future potential. Like opening day in baseball, when every team is undefeated and dreaming of the World Series, graduation means a chance to move on to bigger and better things.
For some students, graduation offers the chance to start over; for others, the chance to build on the successes of the past. But for all, it entails the realization that the benefits of childhood are coming to an end, and the bills called "responsibilities of adulthood" and "time to grow up" have finally come due.
But what lies ahead? Some people have been called to rid the world of war and famine, to find a cure for cancer or to solve the problems of racism and hatred. Most of us may never make headlines changing the world, but we can change ourselves and make a new start during this graduation month. Every person can give themselves a final exam, judging whether they have lived up to their potential and used their God-given abilities.
Do you remember that time in life when it seemed that every door of opportunity was open, you just had to choose which one you wanted? Do you sometimes wonder where all that youthful enthusiasm and naive ambition went? As the old saying reminds us, "Ever notice that about the time you think you're ready to graduate from the school of experience, somebody thinks up a new course?"
Well, although we may not have lived up to "Most Likely to Succeed" status, or married the homecoming queen, or become a successful surgeon, we all have something to contribute to our society. We can all make the Honor Roll of friendship, the Dean's List of charity, or the Magna Cum Laude level of generosity and brotherly love.
Never forget the young man who spent an entire day picking up starfish and throwing them back into the ocean. When asked by passersby why he was returning the animals to the sea, he replied, "If I don't, they will die." The strangers then tried to remind him that there were millions of starfish on the beach and he could not possibly help them all. "True," he answered, throwing another starfish into the ocean, "but it sure made a difference to that one."
Let's make a difference to one person we meet today. Let me suggest that we all celebrate a graduation this month -- kind of a New Year's resolution in May. Let's decide to look at the rest of our lives, beginning today, as a new start and a gift from God to make His world better. Like the collegian setting out to change the world, all of us would do well to try and change our little corner of the universe for the glory of God and the betterment of mankind. Let's remember that we all need encouragement and support from others, and that living quality lives means increasing the quality of life of those around us.
In Sunday School, we learned a little proverb that, if we all adopted, would make life more peaceful and secure. "We know not what the future holds, but we know who holds the future." All of us, whether we graduated this month, last year or 50 years ago, need to look to God for guidance, to ask His direction for how we can seize our opportunities as graduates of life's school of daily learning.
To all graduates everywhere this month (especially those now in the school called "real life"), go get 'em. Remember who you are and who you represent, and keep your heads up. Don't forget what Don Meredith said, "Potential only means that you ain't done nothin' yet." Now is your chance. Make this world a little brighter by being a point of light in our society.
Trey Graham, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Melissa, Texas, is a speaker, columnist, author of "Lessons for the Journey" (America House, 2001), and director of Faith Walk Ministries (www.faithwalkministries.com).