On Thursday, there were a couple of thousand graduates in our local high schools who celebrated a chapter that has closed in their lives and the opening of another. A very small percentage of those former seniors were â€œmy children,â€ and so I direct the following suggestions to some of my all-time favorite students who are soon to be embarking on their journeys. Some of you, having sat through my class, will note a familiar refrain, or harangue, if you will. The words are heartfelt nevertheless.
?Put physical exercise into your lives. Your love affair with technology should be tempered with a respect for the wonderful piece of work that is your body, which requires, if you want it to work well, that you balance the mental with the physical.
?Make time for silence in your busy lives. Turn off your cells and iPods and computers and listen to an inner voice that speaks more truth than all of the talking heads and bloggers and chatters on the planet.
It is where your conscience resides, and it will speak to you for all of your years. Listen to it.
?Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants and less food that is manufactured in plants. Better yet, grow your own foods, be it in a backyard plot or on an apartment balcony. That will provide sustenance for the body as well as the soul.
?Smile more. Better yet, make it a point of making others smile ever day. Better yet, make them laugh. It is indeed the best medicine and the closest distance between people. It is a declaration of our superiority over the woes and calamities that befall us. It is the one thing that separates us from every other creature on Earth.
Life is too short for you to be too serious, and you are not so old to be out of touch with the silly, giggling child that you once were. Hopefully you never will be.
?Life is one big school, so never stop learning. OK, raise your hand if you have heard this before, but consider, if you will, that the words are more than a tired cliche.
Don't ever think of the word â€œeducationâ€ as something that you once received in your lives. It is, for as long as you draw a breath, ongoing. What constitutes an educated person is, has been and always will be a matter of some dispute, but there is no dispute that it is a life-long process.
?Make peace with your past. It has gotten you to this point, and from this point you will forge ahead. What is behind is something to learn from (see above) and not be dragged down by. Your future is about your potential and discovering the many paths open to your happiness here on this Earth. Keep the good memories and try to put the bad ones in perspective.
?Forgive everyone for everything. In this, I know that some of you will have a tougher time than others. You're pretty clear on who it is that has done you wrong, but I plead with you, don't ever let that hold you back. Your lives are all about â€œwhat's next.â€
The things that have been are part of your story, but they are only the first few lines. Use them for what they teach you and discard them as excess baggage when they weigh you down. You'll find that grudges carry a heavy load.
Self-pity and victimization are self-inflicted wounds that can last a lifetime. Forgiveness, even to those you don't think deserve it, is good medicine. It heals old wounds and frees you to get on with the important things.
?Do the right thing. I refer you to that inner voice I mentioned above. Our brief time here is not about self-enrichment or maximizing your comfort. In the last chapters of your life's story, you will ask yourself what it is that you have left behind of lasting value.
You will want to know that your presence on this Earth has made a difference in the life of another. The sooner you begin writing that story, the better.
?Life isn't fair, but it's still good. How good it is is entirely up to you. There are setbacks and miseries down the road, but it really is up to you whether or not you allow them to overshadow the joy that is in so much greater abundance, if only you will be open to it.
Goodbye and good luck to you all. Try to make this world a better place for yourselves, for your posterity, and for my grandson who is following just behind.
?DAN KIMBER is a teacher in the Glendale Unified School District, where he has taught for more than 30 years. He may be reached at DKimb8@ sbcglobal.net.