Last week we had a very happy day when our daughter graduated from the University of Auckland. This young woman has never been to school and never sat an exam before the age of 20. She loved studying and she did so well in her course that she was offered post-graduate study.
There were a lot of happy moments on her special day and you may even have seen a few photos on Facebook. But I want to tell you about one part of the day that I have been mulling over during the week. It was the address given by an alumnus who graduated 52 years ago. He has had a distinguished career in law, and he had pearls of wisdom for the young graduates.
Responsibility to Use Knowledge
He talked about the responsibility to use knowledge that has been passed on to you. And to use that knowledge to the best advantage of the community in which you live and work. And he shared some lessons that he said he had learnt in his 52-year career.
He said learning is an on-going process and should continue for the rest of your life. I was delighted when he said this, because as homeschooling parents, the thing we want to give our children is a life-long love of learning.
He said that true happiness comes from helping others. He asked the graduates to always spare time to listen to others and be responsive to their needs. And he told them that they would be surprised to find how often, later in life, something that had seemed a small thing done for others had turned out to have been very important in the other person’s life. He encouraged the young people to realise that what they say and do can have a very real impact on the future of other people. This is so valuable because how often do we feel helpless and unable to make a change? This wise older man told us that little things make big changes.
Kindness is a Choice
He then said something that keeps ringing in my ears. I was challenged and encouraged. He said, ‘It’s harder to be kind than clever.’ I really liked this, because it’s so true but it’s a little known or else completely ignored truth. He said, cleverness is a gift but kindness is a choice.
And then another pearl: ‘In the end we are our choices.’ This is true. Have you ever noticed that as people get older they become more of what they are? They become kinder or sadder or meaner or happier?
So what will you teach your child today? You will most probably have some time set aside for maths, writing, maybe reading, and possibly any of a dozen other activities. But what about kindness? That lesson comes from the way we speak of our neighbours, our extended family, our politicians and those who think or believe differently from us. It’s the way we speak to our Significant Other, and the way we speak to our children when nobody else is listening.
In the end, we are our choices. And kindness is a choice. Let’s ‘teach’ kindness today. Let’s ‘be’ kindness today.
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