It's hard to believe it's already graduation season. It's even harder to believe that I have yet to be offered an honorary degree or a chance to address graduates at a commencement. Since it appears I'm sitting this one out, I'd like to talk to my fellow benchwarmers. Not the class of 2013 -- you're getting enough advice that I'm sure can all be neatly summarized into an "I hope you dance and wear sunscreen" montage.
No, I'm looking at you, friends and family in the bleachers. You thought you could just show up in a cute sundress, Instagram some photos and hand them a card? Oh no. If you cared enough to sit through 784 names read (in alphabetical order) in a show of your love an support, you should be congratulated, thanked and reminded that your job is not over with the successful delivery of a Barnes and Noble Gift Card.
If you have a graduate in your life, you are an important person, with the power to change this graduate's life with your mere words or a "high five." And while I'm sure that you, dear readers, always think before you speak, I am offering a few suggestions to take into consideration so that you can help lessen the angst of the moment and bring some peace.
What do you say to a new graduate? Remember that beneath that stylish cap and gown, they are a bundle of nerves, facing an unknown future, convinced their peers have it all figured out and they are hopelessly behind when it comes to their advanced placement, their GREs, their job search or their "my first apartment" Pinterest board. They are looking at the job market and realizing that majoring in the philosophy or Russian might not have been a strong career move. Don't point this out. Offer a "congratulations" with a smile and a hug to let them know that you're proud of them.
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Pray for them, and tell them you're going to do so. Remind them that decisions -- a college major, a career, a move or even a boyfriend or girlfriend -- are not permanent and can be changed. As applications are filled out and deposits are made, it can seem like everything is being set in stone, but we are fortunate to live in a place where we have the luxury of changing our minds (usually) should we decide our lifelong dream has shifted from dental school to selling insurance or joining the Peace Corps. But we do have to take the first, scary step.
This weekend, many churches celebrate Pentecost. This is the 50 days after Easter, when Christ had just ascended to heaven and the apostles had gathered in the upper room, unsure of what to do next. While they were praying, the Holy Spirit rested on them, and they "began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim" (Acts 2:4). Empowered, they proclaimed the message of Christ to the ends of the Earth.
We're not alone -- Christ promised us that the Holy Spirit would remind us of all he had taught and give us peace, "not as the world gives" but as Christ does (John 15:27). The apostles were unsure of the next step, but the Holy Spirit empowered them and gave them peace even as they were misunderstood, imprisoned and martyred. As another semester comes to a close and those we love are preparing to venture into the unknown, we can witness to that the same peace promised by Christ more than 2,000 years ago and remind them that with prayer and community we're never alone.
Follow columnist Alison Griswold at twitter.com/alisongriz. Read her blog at www.teamcatholic.blogspot.com.