Every year at this time, as we hear of high school and college
graduations, my thoughts turn to the speeches and accolades wishing
graduates success and giving advice for their future. Although I have
never repeated one of the columns I have written, this column, first
published in 2006, wishes more than success to our graduates and still
rings true today. I just could not say it better than I did then.
I have often thought that graduates would be better served if they
heard fewer words about success, prosperity and celebrity or fame. Our
society has put a veneer on what is considered a successful life.
I were giving one of those graduation speeches, I would wish our
graduates other experiences. I would wish they could experience poverty,
at least for a short time, so they could learn how difficult it is to
make it in a world where money is king. I would wish they understand the
struggles and unfair choices made by our working poor, the choice
between buying food or gas to get to work. Only in this way could they
appreciate and share their prosperity. I would wish they would
experience prejudice, for only then could they grow in a better
understanding of our differences and appreciate the diversity of our
world. Compassion and caring would grow because to experience something
is to always remember and relate to those who have the same experiences.
I would wish them the understanding of poor health so they would
appreciate and sustain the health they now enjoy. I would wish they
understood how wonderful and marvelous the workings of the human body
and not destroy it by making wrong choices, choices that may affect the
health of their future children.
I would hope that they would use
resources wisely and correct some of the overuse of past generations.
Conserving and sustaining our resources would be a priority so they
would be there for their children’s children. I wish they could deny
themselves and not always look out for number one. It’s not that I think
success is wrong, but sometimes success, for its own sake, leaves much
to be desired. Success can be measured in many ways, but mere dollars
and cents, celebrity or honors are not the best measure.
should be measured by the individual. Success is a deep feeling of
satisfaction with one’s self and your station in life. That person may
not be seen profiled in The Wall-Street Journal or a focus of
60-Minutes, but they are happy and successful in their own right.
may be stay-at-home moms who spend their days giving their children the
core values and character traits they will need for a meaningful life.
It could be a small farmer, a garbage man or the manager at McDonalds.
If they love their roles, are doing the best with what they have and
show compassion and caring for their fellowman that measures success no
matter what they may earn or how big their house may be. Many join the
military to guard for our nation’s freedom, others become caregivers of a
family member; are they less successful for not reaching for a career
or financial gain? Is it wrong to reach for goals or strive for
excellence? Of course not. But, we tend to put worldly values on success
and often put burdens on our young people to perform to our
expectations rather than their own callings. We expect everyone to have
our goals and requirements so they can reach our version of success.
if you look around, you can see that the definition of success is as
varied as the people of our community. So is success measured by how
much money we make, or how high we are in the hierarchy of society, or
our celebrity? I’m sure the answers would be as varied as the numbers of
people who live here. One thing I do know. Find a man or woman who is
satisfied with what and where he/she is, cognizant of his fellowman and
of their needs and you will find a successful and happy person. Find
someone grounded, solid and firm in his/her faith and ask them what they
think it means to be successful. I can guarantee you it will not be
money or celebrity. We need to remember that Webster’s lists more than
money, position or honors as the meaning of success. It also means to
thrive and prosper and grow and to attain something we have attempted.”
Sometimes our lives do not go as we have planned. Sometimes those who
choose a career change midstream for something else. But whatever your
path in life, whatever you do, don’t measure yourself against what the
world calls success. If you do, you will fall short of what you really
All of us remember going away from home, spreading our
wings and taking off on our own flyways. We all would admit there were
some surprises along the way. Then, as now, it was just the beginning of
the rest of the story.
Jeannine Roediger has lived on a
family farm all her life, first as a farmer’s daughter and now as a
farmer’s wife. She writes weekly for the Times Bulletin and enjoys
gardening, quilting, cooking, bird watching and writing.