May 20, 2017
Last night we held our Commencement Exercises for the Bishop Chatard Class of 2017. What follows are the thoughts I shared with those in attendance:
I appreciate the opportunity to share a few thoughts with you tonight.
Seniors: At graduation practice yesterday, I mentioned that today is not all about you. The staff of Bishop Chatard takes great pride in what you have been able to accomplish, as well as in the part they may have played in getting you to this point. And while your parents may not admit it, deep down inside they are pretty proud of themselves for guiding you on your successful path to graduation. So I will speak briefly to staff, parents, and seniors this evening.
One of my former jobs was as a high school head football coach. I was not very good at it. Recently I ran into a former player I hadn’t seen in years. We chatted for a while and the last thing he said to me was, “Coach, I want to thank you.” Then he added: “You taught me how to lose.”
I was not quite sure how to take that. There weren’t too many teams who lost more than we did, so he had a valid point. But I could tell by the way he said it that he had something else in mind. He went on: “You told us there was a difference between losing and being a loser. You expected us to lose with dignity and class. You encouraged us to learn from every loss. That lesson has helped me several times in my life.”
To our staff: You may never realize the impact you are having on young people. I am sure you have had former students say, “I did well in my college Math or Science or English class because of you.” But I know that you have also had former students tell you that you made a difference in their lives – that you cared about them, listened to them, supported them, and allowed them to see Christ in you.
Thank you for making a difference in the lives of young people.
Perhaps now is a good time for all of us to show our gratitude to the staff. (APPLAUSE)
One of our teachers has been making a difference in the lives of Bishop Chatard students for 33 years and is retiring. I’d like to thank my co-worker and friend, Dan McNally, for his years of service to the school. (APPLAUSE)
I encourage the graduates to thank Mr. McNally personally. As a matter of fact, check with me after the ceremony and I will give you his home address so you can thank him in person. He’ll be retired, so any time of day should be fine and you can stay as long as you’d like.
His house is very easy to find. It sits on top of a hill and, oddly enough, is made out of aluminum cans. Not sure where he got all of those cans… (Sorry, blog readers – inside joke)
Back when I took Chemistry in high school, we would occasionally conduct experiments that involved the mixing of caustic chemicals. Each time we put on our goggles, Mr. Simpson would say, “Watch carefully…don’t blink or you’ll miss it.”
That’s parenting in a nutshell: Don’t blink or you’ll miss it. Your child is born…blink…she is walking…blink…she stars in the school play…blink…she likes boys…blink…she graduates from high school…blink…she leaves the nest and flies off.
We use the image of a nest quite often when we talk about our children growing up. Perhaps because birds pull from so many sources to build that nest – a few twigs from the ground, some leaves out of the gutters, some dead grass from the garden…just as the values we instill in our children are built from our life experiences, from our faith foundation, and from the mistakes we have made along the way.
A nest seems like an appropriate comparison.
Our oldest child had to be restrained, she was ready to leave the nest early – she flew away…the first-born, confident and strong.
Our second child was not ready. I had to push him out of the nest. Two years passed before I discovered he was still hanging on to the side of the nest – turns out my wife had been slipping out at night and bringing him food.
My third child was a bit of a perfectionist. She flew from the nest on time and well-prepared.
My fourth child was more than ready to leave the nest. Unfortunately he was busy texting at the time, forgot to flap his wings, and fell to the ground in a heap. He’s mostly fine now.
To the parents: Don’t blink or you’ll miss it. And understand that one sign that you have done a good job of parenting is that your children won’t need you quite as much, and they will spread their wings and fly away.
To the seniors: When your parents tell you they’ll miss you, that’s true. They will miss you when they are cutting the grass themselves; they will miss you when they need something to be brought down from the attic; and they will miss you when they need to drive your younger siblings somewhere.
But they will also miss you when they walk by your empty room. Mom will miss your smile, and hearing about your day, and your goodnight hugs. Dad will miss you laughing at his corny jokes – you’re the only one who laughs. They’ll look up at the clock around 7:00 at night because that’s when you used to get home from practice – and they’ll miss you again.
Pick up the phone and call them when you’re gone.
I believe the Class of 2017 gets it. You understand that you did not get to this point on your own. Your faith, your family, and your school have helped form you into the people you are today.
Live a life of gratitude. Tell your parents how much you love them. And when you are preparing to leave for college, don’t forget to pack your faith and take it with you.
Congratulations to the Class of 2017! May God continue to bless you! Thank you!