Recently I had the honor of being one of six student finalists to speak at the 2017 Commencement. To a little dismay, I was not selected, but I certainly don’t count the chance as a failure or a let down.
While I won’t be able to deliver my thoughts to the Class of ’17, I thought I would at least let them be read. Perhaps words from someone headed out can be of use to someone coming in.
A Passion for Washing Feet
There are certain qualities that distinguish better from best, achiever from overachiever… or Grover-achiever. The person who spends 7 p.m. to 12 a.m. in the stacks, STEM, or Student Union, researching their term paper, calculating profits and losses, or coding for their senior project. Grovers are characterized as passion-driven dreamers who know no limits, who know what they want, pursue it, and, more often than not, achieve it. This stems from our sense of calling as believers to set goals and follow through.
We’re asked at a very young age “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and we’d answer with only logical responses: doctor, football player, spaceman, pirate, ballerina, cowboy. Clearly all attainable goals for a 5-year-old.
As silly as some of those dreams were, we were convinced, at least for a moment, that’s what our futures held. As time moved forward, so did our aspirations, but we still were asked that fateful question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
We left high school and were welcomed into the Grove City College community. We came here with a major, and if you didn’t, hopefully you have one now. Maybe you’re like me and you switched majors once… and then twice. Whether Hicks, MAP, or the STU, HAL, Hoyt, Rockwell, STEM, or PEW, we’ve all faced moments that have left us wiped out and looking forward to the next break.
How did we find ourselves in such a predicament? Drive. Passions. Dreams. We were told to “pursue our passions” and “follow our dreams.” But what happened when we thought we wanted to be a forensic accountant, but we’ve changed course and now we’ll start a career in marketing? When we were convinced we would go to medical school, but now we’ve realized the program we wanted to pursue just wasn’t the right fit?
The truth is that these are larger versions of the issues we’ve dealt with every day at Grove City. A test that was harder than we expected. A class that was more demanding than we felt we had time for. A friendship lost due to a misunderstanding or a failure of communication. To a degree we have all been faced with these trials, and we have all gotten to the other side, which is why each and every one of us is here today, ready or not, to leave our red-bricked residence.
But what about the future? Have we been just the right amount of prepared for a world out there that is just the wrong amount of confusing?
Just like we changed our ambitions from cowboys to accountants, from pirates to practitioners, and from doctors to, well, I hope some of us still want to become doctors, we must reassess our purpose for pushing through the difficult tasks that lie ahead, for pushing through the bank statements and the blank stares, the days of doubt and the fear of not being enough.
Grove City College has equipped us for this.
It is a place that takes the confident and knocks them down a little, challenging them to think about the world which for years they took for granted.
But it’s also a place where the meek and the uncertain are given the tools and experiences to be a little more sure of the world that is so unsure of itself.
We’ve been given the skills, the facts, the ambition to move forward boldly. So where do we start?
Perhaps the answer lies in what our true passion should be. Perhaps the only way to truly make it in this world is to have a passion for washing feet, for service, one that forgoes our own comfort and safety to care for the least of these. A passion with a purpose.
Don’t misunderstand me. The passion you may have for jazz or bottom lines, circuits or chromosomes, whatever it may be, is important, but allow it to start from a place of service.
We are living in uncertain times, where division is easier to find than unity and where it is hard to differentiate between fact and feeling.
Grove City College has given us the charge to make a difference, whether on a global, national, or local level. As the faculty, staff, and administration of Grove City have shown us, the best leaders are those who put others first.
Class of 2017: I encourage you to remember always the purpose for which you were born. Because after all our caps are tossed and every dorm room is cleared out, what inevitably follows is the adult version of “What do you want to be when you grow up?” “What are we going to do with our lives?” No matter what your answer—whether it involves this company, that grad school, or some other adventure beyond, may you never forget your primary role as a servant, called by God to utilize all that He has given us for His purposes. May you always be faithful to him who will always be faithful to you.