a letter to my graduate

I debated on making this letter public but after speaking with my daughter she too hopes it helps encourage another “senior” family that may be struggling with the reality that things will not be going as planned.  Here is the letter…..we hope it encourages you.

Sydney,

None of us would have imagined that this would be the world we live in today.  When I imagined your graduation I just assumed we would see you off to your Senior prom, watch you walk the halls of your elementary schools, enjoy celebrating your dancing at Spring Show and embarrass you with air horns when you walked across the stage to receive your diploma.  Suddenly, it seems that all of those things are gone. It seems like they may never actually happen. It breaks my heart…..for you. You have worked so hard and have every reason to be celebrated for your achievements. I’ve tried hard to raise you to reject a spirit of entitlement but I think you and your classmates are entitled to flipping your tassels and throwing your mortar boards.  It hurts my heart to think you will miss so much.

As I have thought about you and the circumstances in which we find ourselves, my mind has consistently drifted toward all of the things that you will miss.  It dawned on me that your mom and I have worked hard to rear you in such a way that you don’t lament what has been missed in life but embrace what has been experienced.  You, my sweet girl, have experienced much in your short life. If I can give you a little advice, focus on all you have experienced and you won’t be overly concerned about what you will miss.  

You were born in May of 2002 just a few months after the terrorists flew planes into the iconic World Trade Center buildings in New York City.  You were too young to know, but the way we live shifted as a result of that event. America was different….the world was different and you were going to be forced to grow up in it.  To be honest, I was worried about you and the person you might become because of the brokenness all around you. My concern didn’t suddenly go away in 2003 because it, and every year following, brought more things for you to experience.  Things that I feared would break you.

In 2003, the United States invaded Iraq in an effort to topple the reign of Sadaam Hussein.  It is during that same year we lost Johnny Cash and Mister Rogers. I know that doesn’t mean anything to you but to me it was just one more indication that the world I grew up in was very different than the world you would experience.  In 2004, Julia Child and Ronald Reagan died but Facebook was created. None of us understood it or thought it would “make it” but….we were wrong. Little did we know how your generation would create an entirely new way to connect with people all over the world through “the Facebook.”

A lot happened in 2005-2010 as well.  You weren’t aware of these things at the time but they were used by God to shape the way you think and the way you view humanity.  Israel withdrew from Gaza, YouTube was created, Twitter was launched, Nintendo introduced the Wii, the first iPhone was sold, there was a mass shooting on the campus of Virginia Tech, the stock market crashed, there was a flu pandemic, an earthquake in Haiti killed 230,000 people, Instagram was created, the iPad hit the market and we said goodbye to Pope John Paul II, Michael Jackson and most of the Golden Girls.

At this point you were old enough to know what was happening around you.  So from 2011 to today you probably remember things like the assassination of Osama bin Laden and the death of Whitney Houston.  I’m also guessing you have some faint memory of Prince William marrying Catherine Middleton. Although I hope you don’t remember the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School or the ebola epidemic, I am guessing you do.  There is no way we could have shielded your little ears from hearing or eyes from seeing these things unfold before us. You witnessed the United States elect her first African-American President, and you have been present at the birth of new terms like “social distancing” and “fake news.”  You were born at a very interesting time in history because so much has changed so quickly.

As you were growing up, I prayed for you everyday because it seemed like the world in which you were being raised had the ability to break you.  It seemed like there was always more bad news than good news. I worried that you might become as cynical and broken as the world around you. Your mom and I prayed consistently that you would not grow comfortable with the status quo.  We prayed that you would resist the urge to simply blend in and become part of the problem.  

God heard our prayers and the greatest experience of your life happened in 2010.  You were at your Nana and Papa’s house so you could go to the Vacation Bible School at their church.  One day you told your mom that you wanted to ask Jesus to forgive you and save you…..and he did. On that day you received life, hope, vision and courage that your mom and I could never have given you.  On that day you started to rise above the brokenness. On that day you knew that cynicism could not be allowed to win.  

You have experienced so much in these past 17 years.  You have traveled the world, ridden elephants, zip-lined in Guatemala, ministered in Thailand, served your community, invested in the church, prayed for your friends, breathed hope into the darkest of situations, and eaten more Whataburger than should be allowed.  You, in 17 short years, have changed the world for the better. You haven’t allowed the brokenness around you to break you. You have allowed it to strengthen your faith and your resolve to make a difference in this world.  

You may not get to flip your tassel or walk the stage like we all dreamed you would, but you will take everything you have experienced up to this point into the next chapter of your life and leverage it for the good of humanity.  You may not get your Senior week, but you have developed friendships that are going to last a lifetime. You may not get to walk the halls of your elementary school, but your life has already set an example for those little feet to follow.  Let’s not dodge the issue…..you are going to miss a bunch of really special things and it hurts. That said, look at all of the things God has brought you through and look at where he has you going!  

Keep smiling.  Keep laughing. Keep dreaming.  Keep struggling. Keep pushing. Keep working.  Keep reading. Keep studying. Keep leading. Keep serving.  Keep sacrificing. Keep giving. Keep praying.   

I love you.  I am so proud of you.  I can’t wait to see what new experiences lie ahead of you.  I’m honored to be your dad and am grateful for the things you have taught me.  There are some really special things you are likely to miss but you have experienced so much and because of our faith in Jesus I believe with all of my heart that…..the best is yet to come.

Love, 

Daddy

 


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