A few weeks ago, a close friend invited me to watch him deliver the commencement speech at our old alma mater. Now, I’m not one for sentimentality or getting weepy over sepia-toned nostalgia, but after hearing the President’s Address at the graduation, even I couldn’t help but stifle a sniffle. No, it’s no David Foster Wallace or Baz Luhrman urging you to wear SPF. It in no way comes across as a life lesson, and yet has just as big of an impact.
I ask you now to take one final quiz. You need no paper or pen; you will not be graded. If you don’t know an answer, move on to the next question:
1. Name the three wealthiest people in the world
2. Name the last three Heisman Trophy winners
3. Name the three most recent recipients of the Academy Award for best actress
4. Name the last three authors who received the Nobel Prize for Literature
The next set of questions:
1. Name three teachers who engaged and/or inspired you
2. Name three friends who have helped you along the way
3. Name three people you enjoy spending time with
4. Name a few people who make you feel appreciated and special
If the second set of questions was easier to answer, it’s because the people who matter in our lives are not the ones with the most money or celebrity status or the best credentials. They are the ones who care. Sages of every age and culture recognize that worldly success has shallow roots while interpersonal bonds permeate through and through and perdure to the end. Our society has developed vast institutions around things that are easy to count, not around things that matter most.
In 2005, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor unexpectedly announced that she was stepping down from the nation’s highest court to spend time with her husband, John, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s prior to his death in 2009. At the nursing home, John fell in love with another woman, and Justice O’Connor visited the couple often. She admitted to being thrilled at sitting with them while they held hands together on the porch swing – because, she said, it was a relief for her to see her husband of 55 years so content, after having lost so much to dementia.
Psychologist Mary Piper in reflecting on Justice O’Connor’s poignant and selfless love for her husband, observed that “young love is all about wanting to be happy; old love is about wanting someone else to be happy.”
I wish you all lives enriched by deep and satisfying relationships – lives filled with people who care for you. Most of all, I wish you “old love” at a young age. -Father Stephen Privett