Opinion

Commencement: Have I learned my lessons well? | Tish Gregory

More than likely you know of at least one person who is graduating this month from eighth grade, high school or college.  A congratulations to all of you as a new phase of a young life begins!  Nothing could be more gratifying and exciting.

Not just for the grads, but also for the long list of people who are sharing in the pride of the day – parents, grandparents, relatives, friends, mentors, teachers and professors.  If you look hard enough, you will see them standing invisibly behind the graduate resting their hands on their shoulders, as they receive their diploma, and feeling that same pride and sense of accomplishment.

The graduate will probably think it was all their doing and it is their day. Indeed, no one would want to imply it isn’t. But the truth is, no one makes the journey alone. Even though each of their stories is different, they all relied on the wisdom, encouragement and support of others to see them through.

I always wanted to give a commencement address, so I thought I would use my column this month to address all graduates:

“You probably feel pretty confident you are ready to take on the next phase of your life, as you have learned much.  But you have not lived long, so you don’t understand much. That comes next.

“Outside the classroom is where you meet life head on – where you put the theory, basics and foundations you learned to the test.

“And the only way to pass that test is to study the meaning of one word that enters into all aspects of your life.  That word is ‘respect’.

• Respect yourself – and demand respect from others.

• Respect others, especially the vulnerable – they’re depending on you.

• Respect your family and friends – they are your anchor.

• Respect your enemies – they strengthen your courage.

• Respect your body – it is your lifelong friend.

• Respect the Earth – it is your only home.

• Respect animals and nature – they have no one to speak for them.

• Respect work – it provides dignity.

• Respect money – earn it and share it.

• Respect hard times – it builds character.

• Respect good times – it heals the hard times.

• Respect good health – it empowers you.

• Respect illness – it humbles you.

• Respect knowledge – it is the foundation of all your choices.

• Respect your talent – it is a gift both from and to the universe.

• Respect time – it passes ever so quickly.

“Your life is like climbing up a staircase, with each step an important entry in your life’s journal.  Only when you get to the top can you look down and see whether they were the right steps, whether they brought you happiness or sadness, success or failure. Only after a long life can you answer whether you are happy with the choices you made and the person you’ve become.  Only then can you decide not only if you’ve learned enough, but you understand what you learned.

“With that, I will close and respect your need to get on and celebrate this happy occasion. Enjoy your life, continue to learn and don’t waste a minute. You will reach the top of your staircase of life all too soon.   If you shared your talent and respected all things along the way, you will have no regrets.”

Tish Gregory is a free-lance writer.  You can email her at:  tishgregory@aol.com

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