As you read this column, we are in the midst of college graduations and anticipating our annual high school graduations. This year’s classes of graduates have made a powerful impact upon all of our communities.
The social landscape that these young men and women have had to navigate has been complex, complicated, painful and, at times, overwhelming. Despite an increase of school shootings, this year’s graduates have become a powerful voice for common sense gun safety, challenging those that lead us to come down out of their ivory towers and listen and equally important commit themselves to action.
Despite the lack of positive, courageous elected leaders to look up to, this year’s graduates have not allowed their poor example to temper their desire to lead by example, challenge the social indifference that has become commonplace and the commitment to make a profound difference in our world. So many seniors have expressed the desire to leave the world better than they found it!
Seniors, as you begin a new chapter in your life don’t let the world and the bureaucracy temper that commitment to be grounded in that important value and principle. Do not let the social filters of our time enable bigotry, exclusivity and social injustice. Always try to realize that being human and sensitive to others is more important than a successful academic record. Showing compassion and understanding rooted in justice is more significant than any science formula or social platform. These are difficult lessons to learn because they demand that you risk all that you are now for what you could become tomorrow.
As you graduate keep these simple thoughts in mind: May you discover enough goodness in others to believe in a world of peace and to work for peace grounded in social justice. May a kind word, a reassuring touch and a warm smile be yours every day of your life. Remember the sunshine when the storm seems unending. Teach love to those who only know hate; let that love embrace you as you continue in the world. May the teachings of those you admire become a part of you so that you may call upon them. It is the content and quality of who you are that is important not merely the actions you take.
Don’t judge a book by its cover or stop at the introduction. Read it through, seeking meaning and message of every life, for everyone’s life is sacred, even those who are different from you or whom you do not like. Be more inclusive than exclusive. Don’t be blinded by those who tend to use shame, blame and guilt to shackle people down and divide them. Set people free with your respect and nonjudgmental way.
So, seniors, as you take leave, what is your purpose? What is your mission? Your life will be what you create it to be. No one can take that life from you! There is no blackboard in the sky that your life outlined for you. You get to fill the blackboard of your life with whatever you feel is important. If you have filled it with junk from the past, wipe it clean. Erase all the hurt and pain that has blocked you from living and loving and being grateful that you are now in a place where you have a new beginning, a fresh opportunity to start new and make something wonderful of your life.
May your moral compass be grounded in integrity and respect for all human beings, no matter what their color, their race, their creed and/or sexual orientation. May your moral compass guide you on a path that is committed to working for peace and social justice. Congratulations, graduating class of 2019. Thanks for making our world a little richer, a little brighter and a better place to be!
Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.