Uncle Ben's graduate guide to life


“Through time you’ve been a friend to me
But time is now the enemy
I wish we didn’t have to say goodbye.”
“Pray for Me”  — Michael W. Smith

On a Sunday in May in the Wolsey gym, I stepped up to a microphone and sang that song at my high school graduation.

The lyrics are, like many graduation tunes, a reminder that there were many great memories among the 16 of us that afternoon but that a great future also lay before us.

Later that day, I had my graduation reception at the Wolsey Senior Center and enjoyed opening cards from family and friends. One particular card didn’t have many of the normal placations of graduation cards.

My uncle Bob had taken the time to hand write a version of his “guide to life” within his graduation card for me.

Many of the things he wrote were things I’d seen or read before, but his perspective added to them, and I still remember that card to this day.

The actual card has been lost to many moves to college and various jobs over the years, including back home to the Huron area, but with the graduation season upon us, I felt Uncle Ben could offer something other than rice…

Realizing that 22 points for the class of 2022 would be a drastically long column, I decided to consider  that the majority of the students graduating high school this year would have been born in 2004, so I decided to focus on four main areas.

1. The proper order is paramount.

One of the major things Uncle Bob impressed on me was that faith and family always come first. Jobs will come and go. Even friends will come and go.

Put your focus on finding fulfillment and having a nurturing relationship with your faith and your family, and whatever else life throws at you is going to come easy.

2. Life’s about waves, not peaks (or valleys).

So many people talk about hitting their peak in high school or college, when they get to be my age. Don’t be one!

Life will come at you in waves, and each wave has new and amazing things that are challenging and wonderful all at the same time.

Rather than wishing for a previous wave or attempting to ignore the current one and swim to the next one, absorb and observe everything you can about this one because each one goes by way too fast.

High school was one of those waves. College or trade school can be another, early love can be another, starting a family can be another, early home ownership can be another, parenting teenagers can be another, and every job you have in life can have its own fluidity.

Experience and enjoy all of it, but don’t wrap yourself within any one of those waves because they’re only meant to be ridden for a short while, and if you hold on too long, they can take you under!

3. Change - more than just your socks.

An old saying states that if you haven’t changed your view on something in the last few years, check your pulse because you’re probably dead.

Change is constant. Just this past week, Apple announced that it would no longer be manufacturing the iPod.

For those of you graduating this spring, you have never lived in a world without an iPod, yet someone who is turning 40 this year has experienced the primary storage of music move from records and 8-track tapes to cassettes to compact discs to digital players like the iPod within that person’s lifetime.

Our own world views change constantly as well. The experience of one corner of one state of one country in the world doesn’t necessarily carry over to the rest of the world, and it’s important to get other viewpoints on life and throughout the world to inform life.

Of course, relate back to #1 and understand that no one is expecting you to sacrifice your faith or your family to expand your worldview, but in many cases, becoming better informed and better educated on your own faith can enhance your faith and is one of the paramounts in passing on that faith to the next generation.

4. If at first you don’t succeed - say so.

A recent change in Starbucks corporate training documents required removal of language that told employees that saying “I’m sorry” to a customer was wrong and potentially a punishable offense.

Sadly, in much of our social media and hot-take driven world, making a loud proclamation is seldom followed up with an apology or even an admittance of error when the opposite is proven true.

In all relationships, public and private, beyond the ability to show compassion in the little, daily things, the ability to apologize and admit wrong is an absolute defining personal character trait.

Modeling the ability to admit your own faults is something that will open lines of communication with your friends, your family, and your future coworkers, not to mention give future children the example you want when you’re trying to figure out who knocked over the lamp!

Be young, have fun, and all of that. Most of all congratulations to all of the 2022 graduates and best of luck on your future endeavors.

Remember that as far as you may roam, you can always return home!

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