As I sat and watched our youngest child walk across the stage today to receive her high school diploma, my heart was filled with a myriad of emotions. Even though she has grown to be a beautiful young lady, in my eyes she will always be my little girl. Today my mind flooded with so many memories of her childhood, the numerous smiles she has brought to my face, and the countless ways she has touched my heart over the past 18 years. There has seldom been a day that has gone by that she has not made me laugh with her wonderful wit and sense of humor, her wide array of silly facial expressions and mannerisms, or her uncanny ability to make everyday events just seem really funny. Likewise, I reflected on the immense love she has brought to my heart through her simple acts of kindness, like secretly writing in my day planner that I carry to work, “I love you sooooooo much with all my heart, Dad.” Unexpectedly finding that in my planner during school that day made my heart happy for the rest of the week, as did the sweet card and letter she put in my mailbox on her last day of school! Perhaps what filled my heart in the most profound way as she walked across the stage today was an immense sense of pride in the fine young woman she has become…….in her tremendous work ethic, determination, leadership skills, loyalty to her family and friends, willingness to serve others and compassion for those less fortunate than she. Her decision to pursue a Nursing degree in college speaks to her desire to serve others in her professional life. The difficult thing for me right now is there is really nothing I can say or write to her to truly let her know how much I love her, how proud I am of her, or how much joy and happiness she brings to my life! Mere words seem inadequate. I feel this same way about our older three children as well, but with this being our last to graduate from the High School where I have taught and coached for the past 26 years, this one really hits home! Knowing that I will never see any of them again in the hallways at school each day is bittersweet. Though I am proud of their accomplishments and excited for what the future holds for them, I know I will miss not seeing my youngest there next year!
Likewise, it is a time to say goodbye to another outstanding class of seniors. I will miss those whom I had in class and truly wish them the best in what life has in store for them. I will especially miss our senior football players, with whom I was blessed to spend quality time. In many regards, they became like sons to me during their four years of being in the football program. We are very demanding, and ask so much of them, and this group of seniors really stepped up as they led us all the way to a Semi-State appearance, just one game shy of playing for another State Championship. It was awesome watching them grow and develop from rather awkward freshmen into confident, hard-working, loyal, committed and selfless teammates and excellent ambassadors for the school! Just like with my own daughter, there is actually no way I can adequately express how happy or proud I am of them for the fine young men they have become. At this point all I can do is pray that they will take the countless life lessons learned through their involvement in our football program and apply it to the rest of their lives! Lessons of the merits of hard work, getting knocked down and getting back up, mental toughness and discipline, teamwork, loyalty, and fighting for a cause bigger than ourselves to name a few. These are actually life lessons that can change our lives and help us become the people God created us to be. If our graduates (and our children for that matter) can take these life lessons with them for the rest of their lives, then we as teachers, coaches, and mentors never fully say goodbye. They will carry a piece of us in their hearts throughout their lifetimes, and I pray that our world will be a better place because of it!!
In closing, I remember a few years back the “Sunscreen Song”, thought to contain words of advice for graduates. This spring, I believe Tim McGraw’s new song “Humble And Kind” might be the best song for graduates I have ever heard! I will conclude by adding a few line’s from his beautiful song:
“Hold the door, say please, say thank you. Don’t steal, don’t cheat and don’t lie. I know you’ve got mountains to climb, but always stay humble and kind! When the dreams you’re dreaming come to you, when the work you put in is realized, let yourself feel the pride, but always stay humble and kind! Don’t take for granted the love this life gives you, when you get where you’re going, don’t forget, turn back around…..and help the next one in line, always stay humble and kind!” I don’t think I have ever heard better advice for graduates everywhere, and the concepts are simple enough that anyone can follow them. Imagine how awesome the world would be if we all followed these words of advice! To our graduating seniors – may God bless you always as you strive to become the person He created you to be, and may you always stay Humble and Kind!!