Every spring, as graduation season draws near, I polish up my speech and wait to be asked to share a few words of wisdom.
Sometimes it’s a long wait. I’ve spoken at quite a few high school commencements, but was never asked to speak at my kids’ ceremonies. It wasn’t that they feared I’d embarrass them. They were used to that. Maybe they just didn’t want to sit in the hot sun in a black cap and gown listening to the same old advice they’d been ignoring for years.
My high school graduation was a long time ago. Never mind how long. I don’t recall any of the speeches, not even the one I gave. People said they liked it because it was short.
I’m sure it included some sort of advice. We love to give it, and it’s cheaper than buying a gift. But what could it have been? Wisdom comes with age. At 18, my life had just begun, and I was dumb as a box of rocks.
Since then, I’ve learned a lot of the things that my grandparents and parents tried to teach me, but I had to learn them on my own.
My best teachers were my children. I earned a master’s degree in motherhood, and I’m now working on a Nana PhD.
Some years ago, in a commencement speech that I also summarized in a column, I offered the following advice that I’d collected from family and friends and readers and life:
1.When you meet people, smile, shake hands and ask about their mother, and they might say nice things about you at your funeral.
2. If you’re going to tell a lie, tell one people will believe. That way you’ll only be known as a liar and not a lying fool.
3. Take care of living things; feed your animals, tend your garden, be kind to children, old people and everyone between.
4. Never pretend to be what you aren’t or to know what you don’t know. People forgive ignorance but they never forget a phony.
5. Practice what you preach, or don’t preach at all. It’s better to be a heathen than a hypocrite.
6. Don’t dip snuff around people who make you laugh.
7. Never be rude. If you slip, apologize. Always say please, thank you and I love you. And never forget to count your blessings, especially if it’s hard to remember what they are.
8. Avoid altercations in the heat of anger. Bear in mind, in some states, “the fool needed killing” is not a justifiable defense.
9. If you have to swallow a frog, don’t look at it too long before you put it in your mouth; and if you have to swallow two frogs, go for the big one first.
10. Never say anything behind someone’s back that you won’t say face to face. They’re sure to hear of it, unless they’re dead. And never speak ill of the dead, unless they’ve got it coming.
11. Don’t start doing anything you don’t want to keep doing forever. And don’t bother to finish what shouldn’t have been started in the first place.
12. Never try to teach a snake not to bite; it’s a waste of time and you’ll end up getting bit.
13. Seek first to understand and last to be understood. Ask excellent questions and listen closely to the answers.
14. Show up, be on time, be prepared and follow through. Let your wealth be the gold that others see clearly in your words and your heart and your deeds.
15. Finally, lead an interesting life. You have your dad’s eyes and your mom’s smile, but your life is all your own. Do what you want. Follow your heart. Call your nana every Sunday.
That’s my graduation speech. I always end it in the same way I’ll end this column by saying this:
If you think the world is in such a mess that you can’t change it, think again. This is your time to shine. It goes fast. Don’t waste it. Make yourself proud. Shine like the sun and the moon and all the stars in heaven above.
Old folks say,”What’s this world coming to?” Tell them not to worry. It’s coming to you.
Thank you for listening. Yes, this is your gift.