May. 27, 2015

Graduations and Deferred Gratification

“If you run out of hope at the end of the day, rise in the morning and put it on again with your shoes. Hope is the only reason you won’t give in, burn what’s left of the ship, and go down with it – the ship of your natural life and your children’s only shot.” Writer Barbara Kingsolver, Graduation Address, Duke University, North Carolina, 2008

Have you ever found that you’ve got so many things you could talk about that you wind up with absolutely nothing to say? That’s me today. There was Memorial Day a couple of days ago and I wanted to talk about my Dad, who was in the Navy, also an officer in the Chinese Air Force, an operative for the CIA, an artist, and a genius gardener.

Then I came across this really terrific article in today’s Los Angeles Times California Section entitled, “Graduation talks gain wider reach,” and I had that “Aha!” moment. The one by Barbara Kingsolver was my favorite.   Writer Anna Quindlen was also quoted from her address at Grinnell College in Iowa in 2011, and she left me totally confused:

“Don’t cave to the status quo. Don’t trade happiness for deferred gratification. Don’t give up adventure for safety and security. The safe is the enemy of the satisfying. Deferred gratification has a way of being deferred forever.”

Does this mean that I should go ahead and buy a new car, giving myself happiness and not deferring my gratification? There’s nothing wrong with my car that a little silver paint wouldn’t fix. It doesn’t even have a hundred thousand miles on it yet. Yes, I’ve had it since 2005, yes, our daughter, Leah, just got a brand new bright red Honda Fit and I confess to just a bit of envy, but I don’t need a new car, even though it would make me really happy.

Granddaughter, Ashley, graduated from Chico State University a week or so ago and now, grandson, Luke, will graduate from Maranatha High School this coming Saturday. That's him in the picture just after his big success as the star in Maranatha's production of "Big Fish." Yes, he was fabulous! I am hoping the speaker will be dynamic, inspirational, memorable and, most of all, brief.  Thinking how many graduations we have attended is daunting. Six college, nine high school...should have been ten, but we missed our son’s high school graduation, having thoughtlessly booked a trip to the Bahamas at the same time. The guilt, however, will be with us forever. We also attended Leah’s Law School graduation. If I’ve missed anyone, I’m sorry! As Ashley’s was the most recent, hers was the best. There were two at Cal State L.A., which were interminable as thousands and thousands of students marched by and we baked in the blazing sun. One featured the actor, James Edward Olmos. He was not brief.

Here’s excellent advice  from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas at the University of Georgia in 2008:

“Thank the people who put up with your antics and loved you through it all. Thank the people who paid your tuition and your expenses. There are those who helped and counseled you through difficult times or when you made hard decisions. There are those who were compassionate enough to tell you what you needed to hear, not what you wanted to hear.”

Books are being created out of graduation addresses. YouTube memorializes the best and the worst. Steve Jobs’ address at Stanford University in 2005 has been viewed millions of times. Brevity is encouraged, beseeched, begged for. And I heartily agree. We all want to get on to the party and the presents! We are so proud of our children and grandchildren and I expect you are, too. Our prayer is that we can live long enough to attend all the graduations yet to come, including the newest little guy’s, Brady Benjamin’s, who won’t be getting to high school till sometime around 2029!

Meanwhile, may the Lord bless all these children who are our future, may the Lord make His face to shine upon them and keep them close. May He do the same for yours.