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Friday, June 19, 2009

Translating Commencement Addresses

The last few days I have been running into commencement addresses at every turn. (That was literally true this past weekend in Hanover New Hampshire, but I’ll save that story for another time. If they got my license plate, my children will probably not be accepted at Dartmouth.) After reading a few excerpts, I have decided that commencement addresses are a great source of wisdom on living your call. Here are a few examples, with a call connection for each:

Kimberly Dozier, CBS New correspondent: “You chose a Wellesley grad who spent the first decade of her career broke, begging for freelance work…who eventually ended up with a really great job, doing exactly what she wanted to do, exactly where she wanted to do it: in the Middle East. And she got hit by a car bomb; they nearly took her legs off….
Call Connection: Following call is a lifelong process, and once you find the right thing, it is no guarantee that it will be easy.

Larry Page, (Co-founder of Google): “When a really great dream shows up, grab it.” (University of Michigan)
Call Connection: Pay attention to your dreams and other ways that your unconscious is trying to get your attention.

Laura Linney, Actress: “Remember that no matter which art you practice, there is no more valuable skill than the ability to listen carefully.” (The Julliard School)
Call Connection: Listen—to music, to your life, to God.

Deval Patrick, Governor of Massachusetts: “I can’t think of a time when I didn’t love to read.” (Georgia Institute of Technology)
Call Connection: There are clues to a call embedded in your early life.

Oprah Winfrey, Talk Show Host: “But you really haven’t completed the circle of success unless you can help somebody else move forward.” (Duke University)
Call Connection: Call isn’t just about you. It is about making the world better for others.

Barak Obama, President of the United States: “Did you study business? Go start a company. Or why not help our struggling non-profits find better, more effective ways to serve folks in need. Did you study nursing? Understaffed clinics and hospitals across this country are desperate for your help. Did you study education? Teach in a high-need school where the kids really need you; give a chance to kids who can't—who can't get everything they need maybe in their neighborhood, maybe not even in their home. Did you study engineering? Help us lead a green revolution—developing new sources of clean energy that will power our economy and preserve our planet.” (Arizona State)
Call Connection: Any gifts can be used for the good of God’s world.

Zainab Salbi, Founder of Women for Women International: “Sometimes you just have to jump off the cliff without knowing where you will land.” (Rice University)
Call Connection: Sometimes you just have to jump off the cliff without knowing where you will land.

Let me know if you heard a good commencement speech this spring with a call connection. Congratulations Class of 2009!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Life and Death in the Backyard

Last night our cat was killed on the busy road in front of our house. My wife and I broke the news to our two children around the kitchen table this morning. It was their first real experience with death.

A misty rain fell as we solemnly gathered around the freshly dug hole behind our house. We unwrapped Solstice from the old table cloth that now was functioning as his burial shroud. Isabel was quiet and tearful; Soren had lots of questions about how it happened and what a dead cat felt like. We each spoke about what we would miss about Solstice. Then we laid him in the ground and took turns shoveling dirt into the hole.

Twelve hours earlier, the mood was quite different. The prior evening, that same back yard had hosted 13 young kids, whooping and hollering. We had invited five other families over for a Saturday night potluck. Most of the adults had wisely stayed up on the deck, while mayhem and anarchy ruled down below. In our small yard, there was simultaneously a baseball game going, kids on the swings, stomp rockets being launched into the sky and a sword fight. Rumor has it there were a few kids in the giant lilac bush as well, but I never saw them. In the fading twilight, it was a tremendous demonstration of youthful life energy. (Aside: I am thinking about ways to transform kid activity into a renewable energy source that might be available for federal stimulus dollars. President Obama has not returned my calls on that one yet.)

In the past twelve hours, our back yard has seen life and death. Today I give thanks for the sacred ground that under-girds and sustains both. A back yard is a simple thing that I don’t often think about. But important things happen there.

Question: What important things happen in your back yard (or front yard, or porch or kitchen?)