Saying Goodbye to Another Senior Class

Tonight was the Senior dinner, our congregation's annual party for the graduating seniors of Happy High School. It is always a bittersweet occasion, saying goodbye to kids most of whom we have known for thirteen years as they have advanced from kindergarten through the twelfth grade. This class, like most, is generously made up of talented young people who have extremely bright futures. So we are sad to see them go, but we are excited to see who they will become as they cross that threshold from school kids to real life adults. I think this class is particularly likely to excel in many areas. 


As I looked at the faces of these young men and women this evening, I could not help but think back to the first time I got to know most of them when they were only kindergartners. For this group, it was in Champions, a basketball skills team that showed off their incredible talents at the half time of the High School basketball games. I had the privilege of teaching them when they were little more than babies. They learned to "plant their pivot feet", dribble between their legs, and some even attempted to spin the ball on one finger. They started when they were but five years old, and most came back every year to participate on these teams until they finished 6th grade. Looking at them tonight on the brink of going out into the real world, I have to admit that it made me more than a little sad. After all, I had practically raised them from pups. Of course, their parents, teachers, and coaches helped some too.


I have had this particular privilege of speaking to the Senior class for some 28 years now. I have given the same speech every year but one, and that year I was told by a school board president that I needed to go back to the original talk entitled, "It's Your Turn". I am proud to admit that I stole the idea for this talk from someone much more skilled at speaking than I, and I have been pleased with the kids' response to the message each time it has been given. The gist of the talk is obviously that it is now their turn, and that they can do anything they want. Having said that, there is a path that God is pleased with and a path that disappoints Him, so they need to be careful about which path they choose during "their turn".


I always try to point out that they will make mistakes during their turn - welcome to the club - but that they don't have to give up and wallow in past mistakes. They are 18 years old, and life is a fresh page for each one of them. If they will do their best to live according to God's direction then they will likely have a good life. But, failing that, it will likely be one that is inferior to what they want and frankly expect of themselves. It's a good thing for all of us to think about, I believe, no matter what age we are during our own particular turn.


But now the time has come for me to pass the task of the annual graduation speech onto someone younger and more capable than I. I have loved the privilege of having a moment to advise these kids on things I wish I had been more serious about when I was at their stage. Even more than that, I have loved these kids, each one of them in each of these 28 classes over the years. And while I will definitely miss these opportunities to talk one last time with these kids that I started out with in grade school, I will always have the satisfaction of seeing their every growing accomplishments, as these babies have turned into men and women of character and excellence. 


I have had a wonderful life here in Happy, and it is in large part due to the impact these young people have had on that life. They have kept me young at heart and old in body for more years than I can keep up with. But it's their turn now, and I cannot wait to see what marvelous things these amazing men and women will accomplish in life. Congratulations, indeed, to the graduating class of 2024. May you ever keep God in your hearts, and may God go with you as you do your best to live for both the Father and the Son during your turn. I love you guys!