fain | fān | archaic

fain | fān | archaic: adjective: 1. pleased or willing under the circumstances, eager. 2. obliged. adverb: gladly

Friday, June 7, 2013

"Remember this: after today, it's not about you."

Increasingly, we understand that forming young disciples who will stick with Jesus after high school is a critical calling for the people of God. In this mission, Good Shepherd is blessed beyond measure with the Episcopal Day School, started in 1944, which is dedicated to helping each child realize their God-given potential and to take their place in God's world.

EDS teachers and staff work conscientiously and tirelessly to create a place and environment that not only prepares the children intellectually for the challenges of the new century, but nurtures and cultivates their relationship with a loving God who calls each of them to the service of others, rather than to the service of self, as the true path to a happy and fulfilling life.

This is a message that receives little to no reinforcement in our culture, and EDS families are fortunate to be able to place their children in a school environment that offers alternatives to the ways of the world and challenge youngsters to rise to their best.

Graduation events always remind us of this sacred calling and encourage us that our efforts are not in vain. Last Friday, the EDS Class of 2013 concluded their time as EDS students and were sent forth into the world with this counter-cultural message and challenge, given by the Chairman of the EDS Board of Trustees, Jim Trotter, himself an EDS graduate. Read on!

Jim Trotter Addresses the EDS Class of 2013:

I am truly honored to be here tonight to talk to all of you on your graduation.  I have made a promise to myself that I would not talk to you about my years at EDS, how EDS has changed over the years, what I learned at EDS, or about the future of EDS as it spreads out over 32+ acres (which is what I am really most excited about and more qualified to speak).  Tonight is NOT about my history, your history, or this school’s history or future; it is about you and your future.

Please also understand that by trying to give you some advice or life lessons tonight, I am not implying that I have figured all of this out in my own life.  In fact, I am still learning many of these lessons – sometimes the hard way.  However, they are all facts of life that I wish I had accepted as true much earlier in my own life.

Today we are celebrating the fact that you are graduating, moving on. It is appropriate that we do so because you have worked hard (and your parents have worked hard) to get to this point. But I would like to make an important distinction. Today, we are not celebrating you. By that, I mean that we are not celebrating you just because you are wonderful and deserve a ceremony and party. Rather, we are celebrating your choices. You made choices that brought you here today. You worked and struggled and achieved. Had you not made those choices, had you not done the work, you would not be here.  Granted, your choices may not have always been purely voluntary – they may have been encouraged by such directives as you either study or lose your iPhone – but they were choices nonetheless.  Your parents have also made important choices and sacrifices to get you here and we also celebrate those today as well.

I make this point because it is an important one for your future happiness and well-being. It is easy when we are young to think the world revolves around us. We think this because, in many ways, it is true. If we are blessed, then we have parents who take care of us, who order their lives in such a way as to see that our needs and wants are met and fulfilled. If we are blessed, then we have gone to a school where our needs are addressed. Skilled teachers have spent untold hours trying to figure out how to make education appealing to us. They have worked to interest you, to excite you about learning and to prepare you for life beyond EDS.  That’s really what I want to talk about: life beyond EDS.

The rest of the world, however, is very different and will NOT revolve around you. The older you get, the less you will be rewarded simply because you are wonderful, a unique individual. The older you get, the fewer trophies there will be for coming in fifth or fourth. Or even second or third. The older you get, there will be a sharp decrease in the number of people who order their life around you. In fact, you will be one of those who is expected to order your life around others. Remember this: after today, it's not about you. To the extent you think it is and try to make it so, you will be unhappy and will squander your energy and talents. It's really not about you.

I recently had the pleasure of being invited to a private viewing of artifacts and historical documents at the Augusta Museum of History.  Most all of them were related to the City of Augusta and they were fascinating.  Reviewing letters from the civil war era and from the early 20th Century really helped put into perspective our current role in the history of our community.  It will also help put someone who thinks that the world revolves around them in their proper place – it reminded all of us that night that our time on this world is relatively short and that history can be made any day.

The fact that the world will not revolve around you is not a bad thing. Not at all.  To the contrary. One of the few latin phrases I remember from my own studies is “Sic Vos Non Vobis” – not for yourself but for others.  You will find that real happiness in life comes from sacrificing your own wants to make someone else happy. You will find that real happiness in life comes from investing yourself in relationships and taking care of other people more than you worry about yourself.  Of course, I didn’t learn this myself until I got married and had children of my own.

Real happiness in life can also be found in serving your community.  For most of my life, I viewed community service as a means to an end: checking off an assignment in school; getting rid of a speeding ticket or other indiscretions; building a resume; getting into a school or getting a job after school.  It is only in the last few years that I have learned to enjoy service to my community for what it is: giving back to the same community that has blessed me in so many ways.  I know your years at EDS have involved a lot of community service.  Many of you probably already enjoy it for what it is – if not, I hope you can learn to enjoy it for the right reasons so that you will continue to serve your community even when your resume is full.

You will find that lasting satisfaction is linked inextricably to what you earn and achieve, not what you are given. Work will bring rewards that nothing else will. Real success and meaningful achievement must be earned. The longer you live, what you meant to do will often matter less than what you did. You will be judged on your actions and not your motives.

Life is not and will not be fair. Don't waste your time or energy complaining about that or trying to make it fair. Life will be hard. Don't be surprised when it is difficult beyond anything you imagined.

These challenges are often the motivation needed to push us to change our lives--and sometimes the world around us.

Don't be afraid of hard work. Be afraid of laziness and entitlement. Don't be afraid of failure. Be afraid to never try. Don't be afraid of sadness and hurt. Be afraid not to care. Don't be afraid of making sacrifices. Be afraid of having nothing worth sacrificing for. Don't be afraid of being overshadowed by others who are brighter, faster, or better at whatever. Be afraid of not pushing yourself. Don't be afraid of not achieving as much as someone else. Be afraid of not achieving all you can.

Learn to listen to people who are older and wiser than you.  For thousands of years, humans were solicitous of and attentive to their elders--those who had walked the same paths and climbed the same mountains and lived to tell about it.  That quality has been lost, I’m afraid, in more recent generations.  I would not be where I am today in my own law practice without a handful of older attorneys who have mentored me and continue to provide guidance – almost every day.

As most of us get older, we realize our parents were right about 95% of what they told us. We realize that the other 5% really didn't matter all that much.

Life can be good. It can be very good--exciting, enriching, and entertaining. You can be happy even in imperfect circumstances. Your futures can be bright without them being perfect. You can really be happy without having everything you want.   I know that one is particularly hard to believe – but it is very true.  We all have to remind ourselves of it sometimes.  Let me say it again – you can be happy without having everything you want.

Don't try to avoid the storms. Learn to ride them out.  Don't seek the easy way--grow strong enough to take the road as it is, not how you wish it would be. Life is the best preparation for life. Don't wish it away. Savor it. Love your family. Work hard. Hang on when it gets rough.  It will get better. And you will too.

Good luck and may God bless you.