Congrats to the Grads of 2019.

Fellow Enterprise columnist Doug Blough waxed sentimental on the subject in last week’s missive titled “Graduates should mark my words.” As he offered words of advice to this year’s crop of graduates, he observed, “I don’t really recall who our 1972 commencement speaker was, or what was said really…I’m guessing it was words like hopes and dreams and how I can be anything I want to be.”

Apparently, Doug recalls that his attention was diverted elsewhere as he was “busy cutting up with best friend Donnie Eash seated directly behind me, nudging my chair around and making duck sounds.”

Nevertheless, Doug’s counsel to the Class of 2019 – though couched in his usual chucklesome way – was spot-on and full of nods to truth, character, and integrity.

Doug’s column sparked memory of my own high school graduation in 1971, complete with some of the “hopes and dreams” language that is typical graduate-speak. I remember that speech well since I delivered it. Don’t be impressed, though. I wasn’t No. 1 in my class – just the only one in that top troupe who didn’t mind addressing those 206 graduates along with their families and friends.

“I will agree that the future seems very grim at times, and we all get tired of hearing that it is us who will chart the course of the world,” I said. “This is very true, but while we worry about the future, do we sometimes pass up the present? Do we ignore those things that make the present truly unique?”

I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing that 48 years later I still write like that. Was I ahead of my time in the 70s? Or, after all this time, have I simply not progressed beyond an 18-year-old’s world view?

“All too often, we look for the bad in the world,” I continued. “Or, we’re so wrapped up in our own little world that we fail to live – to enjoy the present.”

Almost 50 years later, this remains a valid observation to me. Negativity seems rampant today, and I personally know so many folks who are constantly riled about something. It’s exhausting for their family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues. Moreover, I contend that being “other-directed”—looking beyond self—is still a problem long after I mouthed the words “wrapped up in our own little world.”

I was across the mountains for my appointed 2019 commencement that included grandson Ayden. Each speaker (teacher, principal, and honor students) shared thoughts on compassion, probably a pre-determined theme for all—and one that both Doug and I share. How our world would change with less angst and more compassion.

Merriam-Webster defines compassion as “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” The term hails from Latin terminology related to “sympathize” and “to bear, suffer.” In other words, compassion isn’t just about acknowledging someone’s plight, but actually doing something to help. It requires some investment in work, in time, and in a new outlook.

An Amish proverb puts it this way: “Instead of putting others in their place, put yourself in their place.”

I can’t think of better advice for the Class of 2019.

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