Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Making a Difference

Over the past few weeks there have been countless graduation ceremonies in high schools across the country. Our son graduated this year so it's all very fresh in my mind! As we attended the Grad Banquet, the Grand March and the graduation itself, I found myself thinking about these kids and their future. Graduation is certainly celebrated as a rite of passage, but passage to what?

The valedictorian (like valedictorians pretty much everywhereI suspect) commented on the journey these students have been on from elementary school to middle school and finally to high school. She talked about things that have shaped this graduating class and about the contributions they might make to society as they continue on from here. It was pretty inspiring and it got me to thinking about the ways we make a difference in our world. Here's some of the things I've been thinking.

We all make a difference in one way or another. In fact, we all make a variety of differences, some positive and some negative. Is the measure of our life the net difference we make? Or is that a cop out? Imagine one of the 2007 grads ends up discovering a cure for cancer. Big difference, right? But let's say he or she has a personal life that causes lots of pain and suffering for family and friends. The net difference may be positive, but that doesn't undo all that pain and suffering does it. Or let's say that someone who is a great humanitarian causes an accident that kills a mother of three young children. Does the humanitarian good outweigh the personal cost to that family?

So, the point is, the decisions we make all have an impact on those around us. And we make hundreds of decisions every day.

As I think about the thousands of high school graduates that are being "released" into society, I wonder if they have been prepared to be good citizens, good employers and employees, good husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, friends. Years ago an elderly gentleman was a mentor to me. He was fond of coming up with pithy statements containing profound fragments of wisdom - his own proverbs if you will. One of his favorites (and mine!) was this: "Learning isn't all from books. It depends what you bring to the books."

Have we, as a society - through our educational system - invested in the character development of our children and youth? If we have, then I think the future is bright. But if we have failed to focus on character, opting to just teach the academic subjects, then I'm afraid there may be some rough waters ahead.

Life jackets, anyone?

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