Graduation ceremonies began last week for a couple Wake County high schools. The rest will come in waves this week as Wake County lets some 6,000 new high school graduates loose on the world.
For most of them, the decision about what’s just around the corner has already been made. Some will go to a community college or a university. Others will go into the military. Still others will start working in a field they might stay in the rest of their working lives.
But that’s short-sighted. Those decisions will be acted upon in the next few weeks or months.
What should our graduates be considering for themselves further down the road?
What does their moral compass tell them they should be striving for?
Should they reach for the American dream? Work to buy a three-bedroom, two-bath home, have 2.5 kids and a dog? Should they worry about others? Should they look for ways to make their neighborhoods, their communities better?
I was struck by a remark in last week’s edition of the Eastern Wake News from Knightdale police officer Ginger Welles, who said she got into law enforcement out of a need to help others. She’s not the first police officer I’ve heard say that.
But what about today’s graduates? Is there someone who has that profound sense that they are here on earth to help others? If there is, they may not end up being a police officer, of course. They might become a doctor who discovers a cure to some disease. Or more likely they may be someone who takes time to coach a little league baseball team or serve on their community’s tree board. They might become a deacon or an elder in their church or deliver meals to elderly people.
Doing good in the world doesn’t have to be a public spectacle. The best work of the servant-minded citizen is often done out of the glare of the spotlight.
But it’s just that kind of service today’s graduates should aspire to.
There is great reward and an awe-inspiring sense of satisfaction in altruism - doing something good just for the sake of doing it, without the expectation of gain on the part of the person who does the good deed.
And, for all that we worry about in our daily lives – How are we gonna pay this month’s bills? Why can’t the school board get along with the county commissioners? Why is Congress so dysfunctional? – the redeeming quality that makes us proud of where live and where we grew up is the fact that there is someone who gives more of themselves than they have to.
So the immediate decision has been made. Work, college or the armed forces are in the future for most of our graduates. But it’s never too early to consider just what else the future holds. And since our graduates are busy starting new chapters in their lives, I’d suggest that this is a grand time to consider how they give back to a community that nurtured them to this pinnacle in their lives.