Friday, May 26, 2006

Dahh, Da, Da, Da, Dahhh, Dahh

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what a ship is made for.”

This quote was my opening line from my Baccalaureate speech given in 1994. Since then, I have forgotten who originally spoke that wise phrase and those ghastly white shoes I wore have been lost. Still, the memory of that day stuck with me somehow.

Carey Overby, a dear friend and fellow graduate, picked me up from my house for graduation and we rode over in her little red Honda. She let me read my speech during that car ride. For some reason, I refused to go over that speech with anyone else. Carey laughed at the right moments and guaranteed me that someone in the room would cry before it was over. In my 18-year-old mind, that was all I was really hoping for.

Stepping up to the podium that day led me to realize something about my life. After this, it would utterly change completely. All of the faces that I looked into would never line up in front of me again. We would never all sit together, side by side, after graduation. This time in my life was unequivocally over.

Which part of graduation is most important—considering what you finished or chasing the heels of your future.

Even though we might not wear goofy robes and square hats again, informal graduations happen in our lives all the time. College students graduate from dependence on their parents to make relational decisions for them. Young adults graduate from needing their friends to determine their happiness. We keep moving forward.

My mom is graduating too. On Friday, she packed up her van, lovingly known as “Vantastic,” and drove away from Heritage High School for the very time. She has spent her career teaching and changing countless lives in Rockdale County.

No other teacher leads like mom, known as “Mrs. Ingle” to the rest of the world. When a student seems tired or disinterested in her class, she always buys them M & M’s. They must be sick, and M & M’s make everyone feel better. Her classroom assignments, notebooks, and projects become both life-changing tools and relationship builders for all of her students. She can talk teenagers into anything from wearing a cow suit and walking down the hall to sharing the deepest parts of who they are with each other. In the midst of all of it, they make positive decisions that change the course of their lives.

Now, she is graduating to a teacher ranked “retired.” Don’t let her fool you; her retirement is a fake-out. She will be teaching for the rest of her life. However, her graduation or retirement from Heritage High School is very significant.

When great teachers graduate, it creates a vacuum of need. Now, who will touch lives, give generously, and love with an overwhelming grace? The responsibility moves to all of us who have ever sat in her classroom. Wake up, dear students, young and old, and start teaching those around you.

Mom graduates in her life to the next place God plans on taking her. Let’s give her the one gift she has always wanted the most. To all of Mrs. Ingle’s students out there: give away the love of Jesus to everyone you see. She left her mark on all of us, whether it was an invisible cross drawn on our backs or words that you now teach your own children. Your graduation has come; you are a teacher who will change lives. No matter where you find yourself, God will use your life to touch those people around you.

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