|Posted by Springhill's School of Hope on June 24, 2018 at 11:35 PM|
On June 14, 2018, students, parents, staff, and friends gathered to celebrate the conclusion of the school's 11th year. Achievements were acknowledged, awards received, and the two more seniors bid farewell to the school. Brother Leonard delivered the charge to the seniors, focusing on the character traits God blesses. Here is a transcript of the commencent address:
As I stand before you, I consider many things to say. There are movie lines, inspirational quotes, and great sayings from centuries of literature. And maybe for other graduates, those would be inspiring and appropriate. However, I’ve been blessed to know both of you for many years… I met Bridgette during my time at Neelyville elementary some 10+ years ago, and Zack and I have been in each other’s lives for seven. In that time, you’ve both shown that you’re smart, a little (or a lot) skeptical, and that beneath cool exteriors you have good hearts and will go to almost any length for your friends or people in need. I also know that while you both tell good stories, you want to know the truth of the way things are – frank and honest.
So, here’s my honesty.
You’re heading into a world that’s ripping itself apart. No one is sure where the chips will fall or even if civilization as we know it can hold itself together. People are divided, angry, and often aggressive. At times, you will feel overwhelmed by the negativity of it all. Yet I’ve seen you both exhibit grace under pressure and the ability to rise above the moment. Zack, I saw you once carry a sick child to his car without question or hesitation. Bridgette, I know that at your work you’ve become one of the go-to people thanks to a work ethic that drives you on. These traits are good. In fact, they’re blessed by God. Let me encourage you, as you go out into the world, to consider the things that Providence lends His blessing to.
In Jeremiah the 9th chapter, the prophet of Israel wrote the following: “God says, “Do not boast, oh wise man, in your wisdom. Do not boast, you strong man, in your strength. Do not boast, you rich man, in your riches.”” You’re going into a world filled with “smart” people, physically impressive people, and people with great wealth. The world says you need these things but very often these things become gods unto themselves, and they lead those so blessed into destruction. Don’t focus on knowledge or wisdom as an end of its own. Wisdom without proper application is worth nothing. Physical strength is always one accident, illness, or age away from vanishing – don’t place your focus there. And wealth is wonderful, but it can disappear overnight. Money is good, but when the love of it overwhelms people, they do the most despicable things.
In that same passage, God relates what He’s looking for. He says, “Let the one who boasts, boast in understanding and knowing me…. specifically that I am the LORD who practices unwavering love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. THESE are the things in which I delight.”
Zack, Bridgette – go out and practice unwavering love. Be the one that children can look up to. Not because they think you’re perfect, (you’re not, I’m not, no one is) but because they know they can count on you to be there for them not matter what. Be the one that your bosses, no matter how crazy they may be, know that you will go above and beyond to make the next customer happy. Practice it with yourself: take care of the things, the body, the heart, and the mind that God has given you. Guard them as the precious gifts they are. Love when it hurts, when it’s not convenient, and even when it may cost you everything. It will astound people. We live in a time that has horribly ruined the word and idea of love. When you live it, you will bring light into the darkest places. And you will share the Heavenly with those who need it most.
Practice justice. Don’t be swayed by the winds of emotion, society, or politics. Sometimes you’ll be on one side, sometimes on the other, and sometimes you’ll be all by yourself. Be people of integrity. Let your word be true. When you say “it”, make people know that that they can take it to the bank. Jesus was a friend of the homeless, poor, and the rejected. Be that. Fight for the underdog, With a humble spirit, balance the good of society with the need of the one who lives next door.
Finally, seek righteousness. Contrary to popular belief, calling something “wrong” – isn’t. It’s okay to walk away from things; it’s okay to reject things; it’s okay to stand alone because you want more and better. There IS a better way than the destructive path the world finds itself on. There IS a better way than following the crowd. I guarantee that if you will take the stand for right things, you will inspire someone else to do the same. People you don’t expect are looking for reasons to do the right thing… Give them that reason. Give back the $5 bill to the cashier who was supposed to give you a $1. Own up to your mistakes and make it right to the best of your ability. Forgive, even when you really don’t want to. Teach your children to do the same, and then let them see you do it. Make righteousness a daily practice – because you will have to practice it. Our very nature as humans struggles with it, and we can fall out of practice if we allow ourselves to. Rise above. Rely on strength from above.
My friends and former students…. practice the things that God Himself does. Not because they are easy, but because they are needed now more than ever. To you both, may God richly bless your lives. Go in His peace.