I had been planning this letter for a while for the kids under my roof, but as I sit here in the middle of COVID-19, the situation has certainly changed. I am thinking about the graduates I love in Cincinnati, Nigeria, Mexico, and around the world. There won’t be teary-eyed pictures, taken after a long ceremony with caps, and gowns, and siblings. Likely, we’ll gather people important to you for a meal, and they’ll ask you questions about your favorite class, and what you will miss about college, and make comments on how fast it all went.
I usually am full of big feelings at graduations, wishing the graduate knew exactly how proud I am of them in that moment. I have cried at graduations for Junior, Rodo, Marlen and Marilin, for Olga, and Gaby, and others along the way. I know this year will be no different, I’ll have some mama-wisdom bubbling up inside, dying to get out. I might get a chance to say one or two of the following thoughts before it will feel like I am sermonizing, and you won’t remember it all anyway.
So, I wrote them down and here it is, my thoughts and charges and don’t-forgets:
- We will celebrate. In fact, that’s one of our family values- we celebrate W’s, and milestones, Sunday nights, and other you-did-it’s. We want you to know we cheered when you walked, when you overcame, when you grew up, and that isn’t going to stop because this stage is over. This is just one more never-forget-memory we’ll mark with food, gift cards, and lots of cheer.
- Be grateful. Less than 7% of the world is college educated. God saw it fit to develop you in this place, in your field, because He has big plans for you. You can lose a lot in life, but no one can take away from you what you earned at school these last four years.
- It’s time. You are ready. It never feels like it when you make a move to a new job, or into a new stage, but the secret of adulthood is we all just smile, and step forward, knowing most of the time, we are scared and not ready. There’s a lot of on-the-fly growing up that happens, and we believe you will be great out there.
- Families stick together. This is a family life script for us. You can call about anything, anytime, and we will be for you. Sometimes that meant we sat through cold football games, or welcomed new friends of yours, or made room for another at our table, but the truth is- you can’t get rid of us, ever. We will always have your back, and you can always come home.
- You will always be learning. This might be the end of GPA’s and 8:00 a.m. classes, but you’ll keep acquiring knowledge and wisdom all of your days. I so appreciate your approach to learning up until now, and know you’ll grow through further study, Google searches, interesting conversations, and vocational training. Don’t get stuck thinking all there is to know, you’ve already figured out. Be open to expanding your perspective, seeing something from someone else’s angle, or even changing your mind. New information causes our brains to be elastic, so keep stretching yourself, and life will never be dull.
- Presence matters. I hope you take this into your new life stage. Show up for others and have the expectation they show up for you. My mother taught me this through her actions, and I hope you’ve learned it from me. You can’t fake presence, and being around isn’t the same as being present. Be there for those you love.
- I so believe in you. School gives us a chance to say it frequently (“You’ll do great on that test.” “You will be a great social worker.”) but it’s not the only way we see you. In fact, I believe more in who you became in college, than what you accomplished. I will try and sneak it in when you are buying a house, getting married, receiving a promotion, but whether or not it’s something the world recognizes as great, I will always believe in you and who you are capable of being.
- The work is always worth it. I hope you are leaving this season with this burned in your mind. Whether we are talking about a relationship, a house project, a complicated meal, or a difficult goal- do the work and enjoy the result. Even if it doesn’t turn out exactly how you want, what you learn and experience, only makes life richer!
- You are in a much bigger story. It can feel like you get to make up your days and see at the end what you add up to be, but it’s not really like that. There is more going on than what we can see on any given day, and Someone who sees your life from beginning to end. You stand on the shoulders of generations behind you, and lift up the opportunities for the generations to come. God has a plan for your life, and it’s my joy to pray for you, as it unfolds.
- I love you. Not because of what we celebrate, or what you have done, but because of who you are. I love your crooked toes, curly hair, and feisty spirit. I love your big hearts and strong faith. I love you- when you are grumpy, and when you are generous. It’s a fierce kind of love, and don’t ever doubt what it can do for you.
Graduates are overcomers, and it doesn’t matter how they got here, it matters that they are here. So now together, we celebrate this season and their lives. A virus can’t steal that from us, in fact: if I am honest, I think it clarified what we already knew was true – we don’t need any stinking ceremony to celebrate you. You are a walking billboard that God still does miracles, that you are resilient, and that there is a big plan out there for your life. Be who God made you. Be the light we are blinded by today. We are so for you.