My Grandpa, an ambitious and productive man, was always taking on new projects – from business expansions to Shriners' parades. He always tried to teach me that TIME can either work for us or against us and that it is up to EACH of us to choose whose side it's on.
Of course though, as with most advice from adults, it took learning the lesson for myself before I would TRULY HEAR the value in what he had to say. I am just now realizing the finality of this Graduation day. Our textbooks have been returned, our lockers emptied, and our uniforms washed, pressed and stored for next year's teams. Seeing this era slip by so quickly has alerted me to the need to VALUE our time, as Grandpa had so wisely known all along.
When I speak of WASTING TIME, I'm not going to scorn the couch potato like a traditional critic would do. In fact, as graduates, I think we DESERVE to take time out now to relax together, laugh, and learn to enjoy life's simple pleasures…. running in sprinklers, wishing on stars, picking wildflowers. These can be some of the BEST uses of time ---measured not by efficiency but by happiness.
I have heard from survivors of adulthood that it becomes tempting to take the path of least resistance, to allow many moments to slip by uncontested. Or, as an unknown poet once wrote, "For all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: ' It might have been'". Let us never fall into the trap of regret, for our potential is FAR to great to waste on shapeless hollow moments.
Is there anything we wanted to SAY before we separate? Is there anything we always wanted to TRY? Something we never dared DO? Time is OURS to mold, so delay no longer in accepting the chances it is generously offering, because like clay, it is only meaningful and unique once OUR hands shape it. But if we fail to quickly mold it, time becomes permanently and uselessly dried out. So SAY it, TRY it, DARE it.
A second great time-wasting trap is ignoring opportunities that land in our paths because of our own self-doubt, narrow-mindedness, or limitations. Instead we must choose to be more like our own Jennifer Shiffer. Though born with physical limitations, Jennifer has not let time's opportunities pass HER by. No, Jennifer took the chance at Diversity Day to open our eyes, and at our class meeting to share her wisdom, and once again in our school musical to chase her dreams. By ignoring limitations instead of ignoring opportunities, Jennifer models for us ALL how to make every moment a WINNING moment.
A third treacherous trap is when confronting obstacles, seeing the solid wall rather than a hurdle. If we are pessimistic and see these as blockades, we will never be able to clear them. Jim Abbott, lefty pitcher for the New York Yankees, has not frittered away HIS time staring at concrete immoveable walls. Born without a right hand, he never the less hurls a 94 mph fastball, then fields a sharp grounder with the SAME hand and throws his opponent out at first base. Routine play. Yet there was a time when they all said Jim Abbott couldn't possibly play sports, let alone be a pro-athlete, let alone be an All-Star pitcher, let alone pitch a no-hitter. We should spend our time believing, as this champion reminds us, "It's not what you can't do that matters, it's what you CAN do".
Finally, time is all too often wasted by busy people. That's right - sometimes those who jam the MOST activity into each minute never enjoy those refreshing sprinklers and twinkling stars or blossoming flowers but then wake up some morning to wonder where a whole lifetime has gone.
This brings me back to Grandpa, who despite his many projects, always prioritized these intangibles which each day offers. A theme song at Walt Disney World plays, "Now is the time, Now is the time, Life's forward marching and you're in the parade". If you had seen Grandpa, just prior to his final bout in a long struggle with cancer, clad in 1 red and 1 green tennis shoe, marching proudly in summer Shriners' parades, you would have seen true productivity.
Starting today, we get to choose for each moment in time to either LIVE it or leave it, to either march with Jennifer, Jim and Grandpa or watch the parade from the sidewalk, to either join winners who dared or those who never tried to compete in the first place.
I will leave you with the words of UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, "You should learn as if you were to live forever; live as if you were to die tomorrow". If we can do this, making the most of EACH valuable moment, in continuing the proud Deering tradition, the Class of 1994 WILL BE REMEMBERED AS WINNERS… for all time.