With all the local high schools conducting commencement ceremonies over the last week, we have a bumper crop of freshly minted graduates beginning to take their place in the world. I congratulate them and their relieved parents; and maybe more this year than others, because my oldest son joins them in beginning to make his way in the world. I say making his way in the “world” because we have gotten to a point in human history in which a sizeable percentage of them will work, vacation, and maybe even marry, the world over.
Given the virtually limitless possibilities the world has to offer let me suggest the graduates consider the following as options before they head off to further education or enter the work force.
1. Volunteer in our community. There are a number of organizations in our community that can use your energy and passion. You will gain some experience outside your comfort zone, an empathy for others and hopefully you will find a desire to make helping others a life-long pursuit.
2. Volunteer on a political campaign. I don’t care which level of government, candidate or political party you choose to help; you will gain a greater understanding of the political process, an appreciation of the complexity of the issues facing our nation and a deeper love of country for the experience.
3. Take a class. If you are going to school with hopes of becoming a brain surgeon then take a class at NIC’s Vo-tech center on car maintenance. If you are going to become a mechanic, then take a class in pottery or poetry. The idea is to continue to stretch your mind, become a better-rounded person, and meet different people than you might otherwise. If you get nothing else out of the experience, you will have a great conversation starter to the opposite sex.
4. Travel with a purpose. I am not talking about going on some random road trip. I am suggesting traveling to a place you have never been, where the people are very different, the food is strange and there is an artistic, cultural, or historical gem to be discovered.
5. Resolve to read one book of quality per month. Historical biographies, classic literature, and books written for edification and self-improvement would be good choices. Your teachers were not kidding when they said you should become a “life-long learner.”
I will leave you with a thought by author Morris L. West; it is perhaps the best advice I can give you in the attempt to live a full life. He says, “It costs so much to be a full human being that there are very few who have the enlightenment, or the courage, to pay the price.... One has to abandon altogether the search for security, and reach out to the risk of living with both arms. One has to embrace the world like a lover, and yet demand no easy return of love. One has to accept pain as a condition of existence. One has to court doubt and darkness as the cost of knowing. One needs a will stubborn in conflict, but apt always to the total acceptance of every consequence of living and dying.”