By Harriet P. Gross
This coming weekend, my youngest granddaughter, Mollie, will graduate from college. Her oldest sister is already a teacher. Her other sister, the twin who’s one minute older, graduated earlier, and is now earning money for advanced study. Mollie took longer because of her two majors. She’s currently contemplating which area of biology calls to her most loudly.
And now, she’s graduating herself. That crying infant, that shy kindergartner, that no-longer-shy teenager, that long-time veterinarian’s assistant, that talented actress who has sung and danced on many stages, will soon walk across another kind of stage to mark another milestone on her life’s unrolling highway. They come and go so quickly, these major events, like the actual mile markers we whiz past on highways of concrete, barely noticing because our minds are on so many other things.
I don’t know what the speaker at Mollie’s college graduation will say. But here is what Bill Gates is rumored to have told a high school graduating class a while back: “Ten Rules from a Computer Geek,” probably less idealistic, certainly more practical, than anything my granddaughter is likely to hear at her gentle women’s college:
1. Life is not fair. Get used to it!
2. The world after school will not care about your self-esteem. It expects you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.
3. You will NOT make a six-figure income right out of school. You will not be a vice-president until you earn the position — and the money that comes with it.
4. If you thought your teachers were tough, just wait until you get a boss!
5. Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had another word for such a job: “opportunity.”
6. If you mess up now, it’s not your parents’ fault. Learn from your own mistakes instead of whining about them.
7. Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they seem to you now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk abut how cool you thought you were. So before you start saving the world’s rain forests from the mistakes of that older generation, take a few minutes to straighten up your own closet.
8. Maybe your school has done away with winners and losers, abolished failing grades and given you unlimited time to come up with the right test answers. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to anything in real life!
9. Television isn’t real life, either. In real life, people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to work.
10. Finally: Life isn’t divided into semesters, you don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you “find yourself,” which you’re supposed to do on your own time.
Well, kids can still be productively creative, as this incident from a recent graduation in Maryland attests.
They know how to organize, and to make a point — the one here being that even when it’s no longer “politically correct” to invite God in advance to such a milestone event, there’s always a way to open the door for His admission during it. Case in point, as related by a proud, earlier graduate of the same school:
“They walked in tandem, 92 of them, filing into the already crowded auditorium. With their rich maroon gowns and their traditional caps, they looked almost as grown-up as they felt. Dads swallowed hard behind their broad smiles; Moms unashamedly brushed away tears.
“This class would not pray during commencement. Not by choice, but because of a recent ruling prohibiting such activity. The principal and several student speakers were careful to stay well within bounds as they gave out challenges and inspirational advice that avoided all mention of, or desire for, divine guidance. No one asked God to bless these graduates. All the speeches were ‘nice,’ as such speeches always are. But they were routine. Only the final one, not really a speech at all, was truly memorable.
“It happened at the very end of the ceremony, when the class president walked to the microphone. He stood completely still for a moment and then, suddenly, every one of his fellow graduates sneezed, in unison. The student on stage looked out at them and said ‘God bless you!’ Appreciative applause exploded.”
God may be out of fashion at today’s graduations, but I do hope something tickles Mollie’s nose and the noses of all her classmates, in unison, as they gather together one last time this coming weekend.