Sunday, June 30, 2024

Graduation Speech

Our oldest has graduated from high school. I'm so glad we were able to process this over time with a last basketball, volleyball and ultimate game. Prom. Last day of school. Exams. There were many, many "goodbyes". On the big day, I had the privilege of giving the parent speech at grad. Here are a few things that I said to them. I took out the personal parts/names--just trust me when I say I made it more personal and funny than this.

This is terrifying. But, in the wise words of grade 12 students of 2024, “Don’t worry. I’m locked in.”

My name is Louise Chapman, mother of Kai, teacher of most of your children at some point, bus driver and cheerleader in the stands. I have the honour of speaking to you, grads, on this very significant day. I hope I can represent the parents well. And not cry.

When I birthed Kai, I felt one step closer to understanding God’s love for us and I’m sure all of you parents can relate. UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. IN AWE. Everything he said? Hilarious? Seeing him toddle around the house? Adorable. Hearing his “mommy!” and “daddy!” with outstretched arms, what’s better than your child talking to you and seeking you? And now? Their arms are outstretched reaching for an unknown but exciting future and we get to cheer them on while they are led by God. Please know, grads, that as you head out: You are not the job you choose but will be known for the way you live your life. Also, our unconditional love for you will not waver while you figure that out.

The excitement and the reaching? This is what God wants from us too—our full selves and relationship. I remember a certain child of mine saying “I don’t need to tell you how grateful I am, you just know”.  No, I do not know. God wants, and we want, those words. Connection.  When things get tough, as they may have been and will likely be, He is there and can grant you peace. If you feel too weak and defeated to pray, ask us to pray for you. And just to save you time + emotional energy: grads, we want you to come to us parents with the unwise decisions you’ve made BEFORE we find out from someone else—we’ll be way more understanding. No one is perfect, we’ve made mistakes too. Unconditional love.

 Okay, so you are heading out. I feel that the worst question that all of you hear (and I’m guilty of asking) is: “So, what are you going to be?” We need to focus not on WHAT we’re going to be but WHO we’re going to be and HOW we’re going to be.  How will we help the Lord do His work? (Take out the model heart and intestines and stomach

We all make up a body. You likely know this analogy from the Bible when Paul speaks about the Body of Christ. No role is more important than another, and each cell, tissue and organ has something to contribute. What are you? A cardiac sphincter? The gall bladder? Coronary artery? You may not know who you are and what you have to offer yet, and that’s okay, you’ll find your role if you are open to growth. You don’t need to be the entire heart; each part is needed and important from the aortic semilunar valve to the Purkinje fibers.

When I graduated from this very school in 1996, I wanted to be something I considered fancy and exciting like the medulla oblongata (that’s a part of your brain that controls your heart rate and breathing etc.). However, over time, I much preferred being more of a single neuron; a nerve cell that took in all information, passed on what was necessary, a communicator. “Just” one of billions. Your role in life is not your job, but WHO you are and HOW you act.

Parents—raise your hand if your life is different than you planned at the age of 18. Raise your hand if it’s fuller than you imagined.

I’ve realized that some skills I’ve always had like being organized and efficient, but others have developed in me over time—empathy and justice seeking, listening and encouraging. Isn’t that exciting that you don’t know what gifts and abilities FUTURE you will have? You can uncover + develop more of yourself when you say “yes” to opportunities. For example, my plan was to be a doctor; it did NOT include the fullness of teaching in Kenya or becoming a foster mom, but those are two things in my life that led to the most significant growth. Some of you have already started making big brave moves: trying out for a musical, singing in chapel, going on an ILT, and even just showing up to school when you really don’t want to…What will you say “yes” to? Isn’t it kind of exciting that you don’t know what’s ahead?!

Look around you—this entire building is full of people who are a community, a body, here for you. It does not end when you physically leave the school—you’re stuck with us. SCS er for life! There might be a job connection, a counsellor recommendation, a band member…. I never imaged returning here and “tada!”, I even married a fellow SCS teacher. And found some of my closest friends and amazing students. God’s hands and feet. People who will pray with you and for you. We’re a team. Hold on to those friendships and connections; you can’t be a red blood cell on your own—where would you deliver the oxygen to? Where would you get the hemoglobin you need?

I think we often get caught up in roles, stats and money. However, when I see JT, I don’t think “Oh, there’s the boy that can throw over 12m in shot put!”, I think “That J, he is a protector who would have my back anywhere, anytime”. When I see H, I don’t think “There’s a future cardiologist!”, I think “I have a feeling she’s going to compliment me using some wild 2024 slang”—check out my heels, Ht! “When I see J, I don’t think “He has such high grades”, I think, “Oh J, he is incredibly kind, and he donated blood this year to save lives”. I could go on and on, talking about all you each offer to this school body, feel free to ask me afterwards 😊 (PS Please donate blood this summer—join the SCS team!!)

 We’re not here trying to impress each other with our role in the body, we’re here keeping everything running as smoothly and fully as we can TOGETHER. With the gifts we have. God doesn’t love you more if you choose a specific job, but I do think He is delighted when you unveil the gifts you’ve been given, you grow and learn, and make everyone’s day just a little bit better.

I’m going to end with some advice on how to view others: Everyone is doing the best they can with the skills that they have. Are they the final product? No. We can come alongside and help and support—be the cords supporting the valves, be the myelin sheath wrapped around the axon, ohhhh, and possibly the nerdiest thing I’ve EVER said: be the cofactor in the enzyme’s active site! I’m 45 and I’m not a finished product. Does my parenting look different now than 18 years ago? Yes. My teaching? Yes. Will it continue to change? Yes.

And to quote A.S. in his final exam on protein “The fact that we cannot see a single protein with our eyes, yet it holds so much importance/purpose gives me hope because if a single protein inside of me is destined for something, then so am I” . Yes, you are. You are destined for something and what that looks like will be revealed to you in time. Be patient. Be open. You won’t be known for the job you have, but how you make people feel. I’m excited to see your full selves be unveiled over the years to come. Say “yes”. Enjoy. Let’s goooooo!

Love, Louise


No comments:

Post a Comment