Jim Bishop: Giving Commencements the Third Degree, Part II
Column by Jim Bishop
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Oh, you’re still awake, actually contemplating these insightful(?) words from one who has jockeyed the litter-strewn obstacle course of life for nearly 65 years, wishing that such counsel had been bestowed on me at my own high school and college commencements eons ago.
So, where were we? Hey, I’ve found my place again. Let us continue – and conclude – these modest directives:
* Resolve to do at least one thing each day for someone else, a helping hand, a word or note of affirmation, a visit or phone call to someone in need of encouragement. We all operate so much better when hitting on all cylinders, thanks to a few positive strokes.
* Read widely and keep up on world events. With instant access to news and analyses from down the street to around the world, it’s inexcusable not to be an informed citizen, which in turn helps us to make more careful, informed decisions.
* Attend regularly and support the life and work of a local congregation in the faith tradition of choice.
* Pray and meditate. A life that is prayer-conditioned won’t wilt when things heat up. The highest form of prayer comes from the depths of a humble heart. Keep asking, what on Earth am I doing for heaven’s sake?
* Open a savings account early and start putting something, however little, into it regularly. Unlike certain investments and the risks of the stock market, this account keeps earning interest and is bound to come in handy in an emergency. Don’t wait to see a financial counselor until you find retirement sneaking up on you. I wish my wife and I had sought out financial counsel 20 years earlier than we did.
* Cultivate an inner circle of friends whom you can count on for understanding, confide in and receive support from both in good times and if you find yourself walking through the valley of the shadow.
* Unless your living space doesn’t allow it, have at least one pet, even if it’s only a goldfish that returns your affection by turning belly up.
* Take what you do seriously, including your work, but don’t take yourself too seriously.
* Don’t let the urgent crowd out the important. Learn how and when to say “no” so that people take precedent over things that quickly become burdensome. Keep in mind these words from writer T. Alexander Anderson, “I have enough time to do all that I choose to do today.”
* Trust people to do what they say they will do until they prove themselves unworthy of that trust. The proverbial one bad apple doesn’t spoil the whole bunch.
* Pay attention to children, and not just your own offspring. Not all adults have beans in their ears. Listen to the little ones, for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.
* Develop/cultivate a hobby or special interest if you don’t have one, for when you’re older it will add special meaning to your life when you find yourself questioning certain aspects of your identity and self-worth. I feel fortunate in that two things I do in my “regular” work – writing and photography – are also my favorite avocational pursuits that I hope to continue into retirement.
* Sometime along the way, unless you’ve got 12 kids, you should own a convertible. It’s hard to beat crusin’ down the highway in my Miata on a warm, sunny day, top down, wind in your face, a great oldie blasting on the radio, licking a Kline’s ice cream cone that dripping onto your pants, your spouse or friends wondering if you’ll ever grow up.
* Eat sensibly, exercise regularly, get an annual physical, take a vacation, if only a brief one, and get adequate sleep – these will help you soar on eagles’ wings.
* Be on time for appointments, whatever the activity happens to be. Showing up habitually late is a learned trait that’s hard to change.
* Every so often, do something completely different, spontaneous, out of character or risky – as long as it’s legal – and life will never become dull.
* Don’t hold grudges; doing so will eat away at you like a hidden cancer. Inasmuch as possible, live so that if you do have any enemies, it’s their problem.
* Stay in touch with classmates; drop a note of appreciation to a special teacher; attend your high school and college reunions (I don’t understand people who never do).
* Rotate your tires, floss daily, laugh often, don’t be ashamed to cry, take dancing lessons; spend more time with books than with TV or video games; donate blood regularly if you’re physically able; carve out some time for meditation and reflection each day.
* When going on vacation, don’t make God your last resort. And when you look unto the hills and see a spectacular sunset, don’t forget Whom to thank.
Congratulations, high school and college classes of 2010! Those who have gone before salute you. Go ye now into the world and make a difference – for yourself, for others, for eternity. God bless you!