If I were to ever have a full-fledged vocation…I need to love it, and, in my experience, it isn’t always easy to figure out what you love. You’d think it would be, but it isn’t.
— Marisa De Los Santos, Love Walked In.
When I read this, I remembered why I’ve always loved books so much: they find the words when I can’t, they express what I previously thought was so inexplicable. Just when I started to believe that I was the only person that could ever possibly feel this way…I’m not.
A copy of the speech I delivered on November 1, 2012.
Class rings are a symbol of honor and achievement, but also of personal expression. On one side of the ring is a unique symbol that each individual chooses to have engraved on his or her own ring. It’s personal, and it’s meant to trigger some of your fondest memories made here. The other side of all of the rings is communal: it has high school’s crest. It symbolizes belonging; it identifies you as a student that belongs to our school and to our community; that you are a part of something bigger than yourself. And with that comes a responsibility to live out the bond you have with your classmates. Because sometimes love is as simple as a knowing glance, a look that says “I know; me too.” Being a good classmate doesn’t mean that you have to be best friends with everybody; but it does mean that you need to at least be open to love. Sometimes, all you need to do is smile or say “hi.” That could begin a lifelong friendship or you could just remain acquaintances; but the difference, the possibility all lies in that one simple gesture.
I’m reminded of my time living in San Diego, CA, when I frequented Mexico on weekend community service trips since it’s a mere 20 minutes from the border. Despite all the awful stereotypes about the country – the drug wars, the poverty, the dire circumstances, and it generally being an unsafe place… – I was undeniably drawn to their country, their culture, their people, and their faith. While the rest of my American group cleaned, and planted trees, and laid foundation for a new building, I’d sneak away to join a pick-up game of soccer down the road with the boys in the youth ministry that we worked with there. Over time, as I made these trips month after month, the core group of guys remembered me. I laughed with them and relished in the fact that on the soccer field, it didn’t matter male or female, Mexican or American, teenager or 20-something. Sport makes us all equal. I remembered them – and they remembered me – because we all just love playing soccer and nothing else really mattered. We made a connection over something seemingly insignificant, but that’s where life happens. Life happens in those in-between times, those seemingly insignificant, random pieces of time with others that keep us smiling and keep us going despite the overwhelming responsibilities being thrown at us.
During the latter half of the day during these Mexico service trips, we’d get to know their community. I remember Maria Flor in particular. We brought a care package of food and necessities to her: a sick, bed-ridden woman. She was so poor that the sturdiest part of her house was constructed from pallet wood. The floor of her house was simply the dirt from the ground. There were flies everywhere and it smelled. We listened to her story and laughed with her young children. At the end of our time together, we asked if there was anything more that we could do for her. As a religious woman, we expected her to ask that we keep her in our prayers or something along those lines. But this is what she said: “no me olvides” – “Do not forget me.”
Although we have different circumstances, the bottom line is the same. We want to be remembered. We want to know that our lives matter and that they have made some sort of impact here on this earth. You’ll carry your rings as reminders of the difference that you’ve made in the life of school, and the difference that our school has made in your own life. I remember Maria Flor because I was able to share my gifts with her in a way that mattered. I remember Maria Flor not for anything she did or achieved or accomplished, but simply for who she is and what I learned through my interactions with her. Your interactions with your classmates, no matter how big or small, is how they will remember you.
You were freshmen during my first year here at PJP. I’ll remember the laughter we shared and how that made me feel like this is where I belonged, despite being 3500 miles away from home. I love your class in spite of – or perhaps because of – your silliness, and for your sassy authenticity, and for being people who transform those around you by simply being yourselves. Congratulations.