If I Could Give the Talk at Graduation

Let’s pretend it’s graduation day and I am the speaker and you are one of the many young people there in your rows of fanny-squeezing chairs. This is me talking to you now:

“What I would like to do in my time at the podium is tell you about a topic that arose the time I went on a seven-day retreat with some other young people. There, in our daily evening sessions, some music got played, and some special topics got looked at, principally about our lives and what God was maybe hoping we might do with them.

“My ‘job’ that week? To offer thoughts lively enough to act as inspiration for the journaling the kids would do during their daily Quiet Time.  So for twenty minutes each night, their young faces were pointed in my direction, just like yours are now.

“Of course it’s thrilling for all us old folks to be given the chance to talk to you guys, so I thought and thought about what I might say.

“I decided finally on a walk through the great ‘Stages of Life,’ the all-important Who am I? stage at life’s beginning no less than the wonderful end stage when we’re meant to give back and pass down all we have gained in the way of riches and wisdom. The Using Your Gifts stage came up too of course, as well as what I’ll call the Changing-the-World’s Light Bulbs stage.

“But the phase of life that really made their eyes light up was the one we all come to when we begin to look around for a partner.

“I don’t know any more about this subject than the average guy, of course, but I did find my own life’s companion when I was just one year older than these kids, and I am with him still. Thus, I just offered a few tips on Love, and, in the hope that it might bring a light to your eyes too, and I’ll repeat them here:

“One, don’t expect to like each other every second of the day. Even Gandhi found their close companions annoying at times. And yes, I know all about cranky old Sartre with his Hell is other people’ talk; that’s just nonsense. Other People are the ones who heal and redeem us.

“Two, find a partner who makes you laugh.

“Three, make sure that person gets a kick out of you too.

“Four, don’t be afraid the relationship will break if you have a fight. It won’t break, as long as nothing really cruel or spirit-withering gets said.  “Five, in fact just never say those hurtful things. Learn to hold your tongue. In my marriage, the more one of us screws up the less the other one says about it and why? Because people see when they’ve done a dumb thing. If nobody starts berating them about it they can skip the defensiveness and give themselves  a pretty stern lecture.

 “So I said all that at the session devoted to partnering and the next day three different youth approached me.

“‘It was great what you told us,” one said to me.

“‘I could never picture myself married ‘til last night,” said another.  

 “’Can you give us another love talk?’ asked a third.

“But it’s all a Love Talk really, your teachers’ lessons, your parents’ advice, and every last speech you hear from old fogies like me. Because it doesn’t matter a bit that school is almost out. Straight though the calendar and our whole lives through, Love is and will be the great and only subject.