And the Award for Outstanding Graduate Goes to…

As I opened the alumni newsletter from my alma mater, I gave a quick glance to its contents and landed on the story of that month’s featured graduate. Oh, his accomplishments were noteworthy, the implied level of his salary enviable, the suit and tie he chose for the photo shoot impeccable, and, I must confess, his recognition well deserved. But as I finished the article, I sighed one of those out-loud, close-to-asthmatic-sounding sighs, wishing, as I did nearly every month, that once, just once, the featured graduate wouldn’t be selected because of his or her salary, business achievements or title, or industry-specific notoriety.

Nope. I want the featured graduates to be school teachers who have simply shown up, cared, taught, listened to, and loved their students every school day for the last fifteen years. I want the featured graduate to be the guy who used his degree to get his desired job, regardless of the salary, and who mows lawns on the weekends as a gift to three of the widows from his church. I want the featured graduate to be the husband who faithfully loves his wife, the wife who faithfully loves her husband, and the parents who are shedding tears and just hoping that, by the grace of God, they’re doing it right.

I want the featured graduates to be my sisters, my brother, my friends. You know—people who wake up, give their all, give some more, and keep growing in the knowledge of how God is using them where they are to be who they were meant to be and who they are able to be. Yes, the business leaders are great examples too, but show us people like us. People who don’t get awards for doing the right thing when no one is watching. People who won’t hear thunderous applause for keeping the house clean, getting to work on time, holding the hand of a sick child or parent, or rocking a child into the wee hours of the morning—for the fifth night in a row.

These people, the “ordinary” graduates, are heroes worthy of feature articles, yet you as the reader and I as the writer both know that it’s not likely to happen. But colleges, universities, schools, look around at your constituency. It includes the ordinary folks doing ordinary things in ordinary—and occasionally extraordinary—ways. These are the role models, the examples, the feature stories who will touch the lives of your students. These are the moms, the dads, the Sunday school teachers, the caregivers who will most greatly impact your students.

I’m not saying that business leaders, legislators, and high-ranking officials should not be featured. I’m just reminding you…no, I’m imploring you to remember…that they are only a fraction of the graduates who are excelling at what they’ve been called to do—no matter what that role may be.

So to the teachers, the moms, the dads, the aunts, the uncles, the church musicians, the community workers, the nurses, the doctors, the bus drivers, the small business owners, the guy whose name fades into the woodwork, and the girl whose name seems unknown, remember that Jesus Himself said toward the end of His life, when speaking to God the Father, the words that every graduate should be featured for being able to say, “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do” (John 17:4, NKJV). Now that is a front-page-worthy life worth living!

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