Sunday, May 20, 2012

Living Life for the Fewest Regrets

Each spring, one of the things I look forward to is speaking to our graduating class. Below are my brief remarks for this year.
Greetings and welcome to the 19th annual commencement ceremony of the Sioux Central Community School District. 

You have passed through the doorways of Sioux Central school—for a couple of you for just a few months—and for some of you for up to 14 years. You have had your challenges along the way. But you have had your fun as well, and you have been supported by a caring faculty, staff, and administration that truly wanted each and every one of you to succeed. 

In addition, you had the love of family and friends, some of whom are here today to watch you complete your journey. They have come this far with you, they want to be here with you to watch you enjoy your final rewards. 

But in a few short minutes, you will turn your tassels, toss your caps, and walk out through our doors for the last time, some of you for the very last time. As you step through the door as high school graduates, an hour glass just for you will be turned over somewhere. The tiny grains of sand will slowly and inexorably begin to trickle from the upper glass chamber to the lower chamber. 

As you look at the hour glass in your minds eye, you will see today so many grains of sand in the upper chamber that it appears it may never run out. You will all be tempted to ignore most of the grains as they fall because there are so many. 

But some time today, or some time soon, I want you to talk about this metaphor with some of these people who are here to see you graduate today. You need to spend some time talking with some of these people whose faces are lined by experience and whose hair is lightened by wisdom. They know more about this hour glass today than you possibly could. 

Visitors and honored guests, I ask you to seek out your graduates to discuss this with them. There are so many distractions when a person graduates, but they need to hear from you. 

You see, graduates, the sand in this hour glass will never speed up or slow down. The sand keeps moving at the same pace. But your perception of the sand will change. It will seem to move faster every year. And every year that passes, you will realize more and more how little sand was really in that upper chamber at the beginning. 

And every grain of sand that drops represents an opportunity, . . . 
  • an opportunity to move forward, 
  • or one to step back, 
  • an opportunity to accomplish something, 
  • a time to build a relationship, 
  • a chance to contribute, 
  • a moment to love and be loved. 

The experienced and wise people I mentioned know this to be true: as we look back on the grains of sand that have passed through the hour glass—and you will remember each and every one—you only truly regret the missed opportunities: 
  • You will never regret building a relationship.
  • You will never regret the money you gave to charity.
  • You will never regret the book you took the time to read.
  • You will never regret the times you stayed sober.
  • You will never regret the money you saved.
  • You will never regret expressing gratitude.
  • You will never regret the loyalty you showed to others.
  • You will never regret the times you have loved and the times you have shown your love. 

One of my favorite poems is by the American poet John Greenleaf Whittier. One of his poems concludes with this simple couplet: 

     “For of all sad words of tongue or pen, 
     The saddest are these: 'It might have been!'” 

For each of us, when the sands in the hourglass run low, the happiest of us will be those who have the fewest regrets. 

Sioux Central Graduates of the Class of 2012, the whole world lies before you today. Go out and make your lives extraordinary.

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