It's About the People
Several years ago, I was honored to give the commencement address at my alma mater. In preparing to address the attendees, I was struck with a sense of responsibility I had not previously considered to be associated with such a speech. I realized that I had been given the opportunity and responsibility to put the period at the end of a 13-year long educational upbringing.
After considering all the important points, the challenging remarks, and motivational stories I could share, I lifted my head from desk and began to reflect on my time in the classroom as a student and on the remarks made at my graduation. My college basketball coach, Morris Michalski spoke at my high school graduation. I do not remember everything about it, but I have always remembered that he challenged us to hold on to the relationships we had, and to value the people in our lives.
In my address, I shared that many of the most important lessons we learn in school are never assessed on a high stakes test. They are not written in a text book, and they don't show up on our college applications. The lasting lessons (outside of a few academic components that really matter to us individually) are the ones associated with relationships with people. I can't recall many homework assignments I completed. I can't even remember many of the awards I won or the basketball games I played in. However, ask me who mattered and what people influenced my life during that time, and I don't even have to think. I regurgitate their name, the exact moment I knew that person cared about me or I cared about him/her, and I can probably tell you how we still keep in contact today. It may be a fellow classmate, a teacher, a coach, a mentor, a youth pastor, a neighborhood friend, a sibling, or a parent. My education, though standards aligned and research-based, was substantial and impactful because of the influence other people had on my life.
If you are in a position to interact with young people (and really, everyone is), remember that you have been blessed with an immense opportunity to make a difference in someone's life. I had high math scores because I was blessed with the genetic disposition to process numbers efficiently, but I have experienced success in life as a direct result of the impact other people have had on my life. I am forever thankful that my parents and my church exposed me to a vast array of individuals that still impact my life in meaningful ways. My challenge is to find someone and share the blessings that have been given to me.
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