If you feel like the future is bleak, I’ve got a suggestion for you.
Go to a graduation ceremony.
High school or college – take your pick. Better hurry, though, because they’re almost done for the year.
I’ve been to several ceremonies in recent weeks and have been refreshed by evidence that the cream of the 2012 crop seems well equipped to deal with an increasingly complicated and shrinking world.
So rather than share unsolicited advice with this year’s graduates, I’ll pass along what they’ve taught me:
• Live gratefully. Grateful people improve every family, workplace and friendship they’re in – every time.
One salutatorian recently made a point to thank each of her fellow graduates for their contributions to her life. She set aside the temptation to offer her own advice to them, or joke at others’ expense, choosing instead to express sincere thanks for the positive influence of others. May her tribe increase.
Gratefulness is a powerful virtue; it changes the tone of relationships, improves the toughest workplaces and inspires others to live thankfully. Are you a grateful person?
It doesn’t take much effort to point out everything that is wrong in our world; a critical spirit feeds on the lowest-hanging fruit. But when we discipline ourselves to see and express gratitude for what is right and good in others and in our world, our outlook on the future improves.
The Bible suggests that a grateful influence flows from grateful thinking: “… whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things,” (Philippians 4:8 – New King James Version).
• Live industriously. The world already has its quota of those who want something for nothing.
People who take ownership of their responsibilities, initiate solutions, and spend their own time, energy and sweat to get a job done are an inspiration. I’m impressed with the work ethic of the high school and college graduates I’ve met this spring; they give me hope that an attitude of entitlement in our country may yet be overcome.
At a college prep school graduation last month, students actually applauded their teachers for refusing to inflate grades, make assignments easy or otherwise cut corners in the classroom. Their industriousness, their refusal to accept mediocrity, is something that would benefit us all.
Again, the Scripture affirms this kind of attitude: “Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper,” (Proverbs 13:14 – New Living Translation).
• Live selflessly. When I listen to this year’s graduates, I’m encouraged to think that perhaps the “me generation” has at least shown its offspring the folly of worshipping the god of self.
In Moscow last month, I was blessed to watch a military officer give up his right to induct this year’s ROTC graduates into the service. Instead, he gave that right to their commencement speaker, James Amos, Commandant of Marine Corps.
The officer set aside his rare privilege so graduates could have the rarer thrill of being sworn into their military duties by the nation’s highest ranking Marine. That’s selflessness.
It occurred to me that the ROTC graduates themselves were setting aside even more in order to serve others protecting our country. College grads entering the military this spring will likely be called upon to sacrifice a comfortable lifestyle, personal safety and uninterrupted family life – yet they cheerfully did so.
Grateful, industrious, selfless people make a difference in the world.
I’m relieved to see so many of them coming out of our high schools and colleges these days.