Grads always hold great promise

Sally Oakes's picture

I got this quiz in an e-mail not long ago:

1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.

2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.

3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America.

4. Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.

5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.

6. Name the last decade’s worth of World Series winners.

Now …

1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.

2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.

3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.

4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.

5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with

I confess that if a forwarded e-mail takes a long time to download or has an attachment, I just delete it, so I’m glad
I opened this one. At best I could only name a few.

The second test was difficult only because it was hard to narrow it down to just a few people. Plus, I wasn’t sure of the legality of including one person on more than one of those lists.

The exercise got me to thinking, though. It got me to thinking of our impact on others’ lives, and that thought, in turn, led to thinking about high school seniors. Being the mother of such, and being consumed with activities like senior awards, senior recital (mine is a pianist), senior concert (she’s also a singer), senior pictures, senior announcements, senior fun day, senior not-fun day, senior prom, senior exams, senior loaf-off, senior lunch, senior breakfast, senior snack time … well, let’s just say seniors have been on my mind so practically anything would make me think about seniors. Still, I’ve got to say that I’m impressed.

What I’ve seen is a group of young men and women who are facing their early adulthood with an impressive amount of poise and maturity. I see youngsters who exemplify the second quiz. I’ve witnessed teachers get involved in the kids’ lives and help them focus their abilities into directions that will begin their lives, whether it’s college-bound, work-bound, or, in one girl’s case, missionary-to-Africa-bound.

All that time they spend on the senior cell phone? Number 2 on the list: however joyous it may be, this is a hard transition for 17- and 18- year old young people to make. They’re helping each other through this time, just like they helped a girlfriend or buddy through a romantic break-up or their parents’ divorce. At honors night, the kids exploded with applause and cheers when a young man with Down Syndrome received an award and it thrilled him. They genuinely appreciated him. Even though my daughter’s group is mostly in music and theater, jealousy and pettiness are surprisingly minimal (I’ve seen worse in church choirs).

All this to say something simple: There is likely to be a future Heisman Trophy winner somewhere in the class of 2007. Miss America very well could come from the class of ’07. Many of these kids will be wealthy in 15 years, and others will go on to win honors such as the Nobel Prize. We’ll celebrate their accomplishments with them.
In this year’s graduating class, there might be one who will develop a new medical procedure that changes the world of medicine, but the ones who really change the world are those who form the relationships that make a difference in the lives of the people they see in everyday encounters. I know this because they’re already well on their way.

God’s commandment isn’t to change the world, but to touch one life. Winning the Pulitzer Prize is not a requirement for fulfilling God’s command; writing a letter to a friend who needs encouragement is. “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
In a day when we’re worried about the spread of meth, teen binge-drinking, and teen violence, it’s a blessing to know that there are many with their heads on straight.

Congratulations, Class of 2007!

Sally Oakes is pastor of Bethany United Methodist Church, 607 Rivers Road, Fayetteville, GA 30214. Phone: 770-964-6999 or 770-964-6992, or e-mail

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