There is a long-standing tradition of sending off graduates with prayers, blessings, and words of wisdoms.
The truth is, friends, most of you are not going to remember much of what we tell you.
And that’s OK.
If people of my generation had had such great wisdom,
we wouldn’t be handing you a polluted world,
a humanity ravaged by war and poverty,
and an economy in shambles.
Rather than giving you words of wisdom, I want to tell you:
we are sorry.
We are sorry for the sorry lot that you have been handed.
Please help us!
And I hope you are up to the challenge.
I hope you are better than we have been so far.
I was asked to think of a gift or two to leave you with, so here are some lessons I have learned in my life.
It comes from my own Islamic tradition, but it is also a few gems from the lessons of my life, learned through my own joys and sorrows, losses and gains.
Here it goes:
with your own selves.
with your own selves.
A lot of people are going to ask you to figure out what you are going to “do” now that you are a grown up.
They ask you because they care, and because they are scared.
They ask because they don’t want to take care of you forever,
and because at some point they want you to take care of them.
I ask you to pay as much attention to who you are
and who you are becoming
as you do to what you are going to “do” for a living.
Remember, Jesus didn’t become Christ till he was 30.
Muhammad did not become the Prophet till he was 40.
And you all are not any cooler than them.
It took Jesus and Muhammad a while to figure out who they were,
and what they were going to “do.”
If you haven’t figured it out by the time you’re 22, it’s alright.
Be careful with love.
Be careful with people you take into your heart.
So many of you are so careful about what you put into your bodies.
Good. That’s as it should be. Don’t put trash into your bodies.
Be as careful about who you let into your hearts.
These hearts are gentle and fragile.
Chose your partners carefully.
Don’t confuse great sex with love.
If you find someone to love you back, love them kindly.
Don’t hurt the ones close to you.
The ones we love are the same ones that we hurt the most.
The ones you love are also the ones that can hurt you the most.
If you are not happy in a relationship, work on it.
If it doesn’t get better, get out.
But if you can’t make someone happy, do not increase their suffering.
Do not cheat on people you have loved once.
And don’t let someone increase your suffering.
Figure out what you are passionate about in life.
Figure out what gives you joy.
Most of you know when your Iphones are running low, and you run to charge them.
Pay attention to your own spirit that way.
When you are running low in the spirit,
Charge your own hearts.
Figure out what charges you, and do it.
If it is prayer, pray.
If it is going for a nature walk, go for a walk.
If it is being around people you love, do it.
Don’t let your heart run on empty.
There will be a lot of temptation in your life to keep looking ahead: Getting into this school, that school. Getting this job, that promotion.
Finding Mr. Right, Mrs. Right. (Mr. Right #2, Mrs. Right #3, and so on). Buying that house, retiring.
Fine. Through all of that, remember that this is your life.
Here and now.
The Now, the eternal now that is the very present breath you are taking.
This is the only moment you are alive in.
Be. Here. Now.
The past is gone, the future is not here yet.
Don’t miss your own life.
Some of the Muslims I study say: “have your heart be where your feet are.”
Look at where you are standing.
Look at whom you are standing with.
Be there with them. Love them.
Be present with yourself, with those around you.
Some of you are going to get hurt in life.
Some will get shattered.
I am here to tell you that there is life after death.
I’m not talking about the Afterlife, but life on this earth after death.
There is real healing.
You will heal.
Rumi says, “the wound is where the light enters you.”
The very ways in which you get hurt might be ways in which light and grace enters your life.
You will get your heart broken, you will lose people you love, and you will survive.
Maybe even grow kinder, more compassionate, and gentler because of these losses.
I promised not to do this, this whole piling on of advice.
So I’ll stop. I’ll simply say this:
You are special.
Each and every single one of you is special.
From where we have stood, we have seen your promise, your gift, your life, your soul, your hopes, your dreams.
And you have not stood here alone.
Each of you has stood here because someone, somewhere has sacrificed for you.
Someone, somewhere paid your price.
Someone, somewhere, loved you.
You are not alone.
You are loved.
You stand on someone’s shoulder.
You are paid for.
Be not alone.
Reach out to one another, to those who have sacrificed for you, and to those for whom you will sacrifice.
All of this is a roundabout way of saying the most important thing of all:
We love you.