She’s always reminded me of my teenage self. And on Wednesday, the resemblance was even more striking. On a similar June afternoon ten years ago, I, also a Warrior, stood dressed in a red gown. This time, I sat in the stadium seats between hundreds of proud parents holding leis.
When Maddy walked in, I spotted her easily. She’s taller than most of the other girls, and some of the boys too. How I know that feeling. Her long blond hair was down, and her cap on tight. She scanned the crowd looking for mom and dad. We all waved when she looked up.
When they welcomed her to the stage, their valedictorian, my own speech came rushing back. Unlike Maddy, I hadn’t received the highest honors. But, similar to her, I’d also stood on that podium. We both felt the weight of this moment perhaps more so than other high school students who speak to their peers on graduation day. This speech couldn’t be confused with the lyrics of a Vitamin C graduation song. No, this speech had to be better than average. It had to offer new perspective, depth, and meaning. It couldn’t be about us.
She delivered her speech beautifully, touching on her time spent in Fresno on a missions trip. She spoke about joy and community. She spoke about tough stuff. She spoke about hope. And, she made me laugh, as any good speechwriter will do.
When she finished, she sat back down into a sea of students who would soon become distant memories. They would march out of that stadium together just an hour later, into their own lives. Some of them will go on to do great things. Some will fail miserably. They will all realize that high school, while formative and fun at times, is not the real world. The real world, they will discover, is not about us. No matter how “successful” we become this world is not about the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, the promotions we seek, the accolades we achieve. As Nicole Nordeman sings, our life should be about: “Did I choose to love? Did I point to You enough to leave a mark on things? I want to leave an offering…a child of mercy and grace who blessed your name unapologetically and leave that kind of legacy.”
It’s not very often we get the chance to stand at a podium, and speak mercy and grace. But each day, we have opportunities to love big, and offer God praise for these great lives He has given us. I am so proud of Maddy for taking her moment at the podium. And I am reminded, to keep going back to the podium myself.