By REV. LUNA L. DINGAYAN
“I do not claim that I have already succeeded or have already become perfect. Ikeep striving to win the prize for which Christ Jesus has already won me to himself.” — Philippians 3:12
(This is a message-reflection delivered for children graduating from their elementary education).
Our theme for this commencement exercises states, “Moving up for greater challenges with faith, wisdom, and good character.” It implies that we do not remain where we are. We have to move up. And as we move up, we would face greater challenges. Hence, we must have faith, wisdom, and good character to face these greater challenges in life. This truth could be illustrated by the life of three children that I would like to share with you.
Moving up with faith
And so, first of all, we need to move up for greater challenges with faith. Now, let me share with you the story of a boy named Lindy. He was only ten years old when he first became interested in airplanes. By the time, he was about your age he had begun to learn how to fly airplanes by himself. There was a lot to learn, of course, but Lindy did not mind that. Whatever he did, he put his whole heart and mind into it.
Before long, he was flying on a regular air route carrying the airmail. That was an interesting job, but the more Lindy learned, the more he wanted to try something more challenging, something which would benefit the world.
In May 1927, his chance came. He planned to fly across the great Atlantic Ocean in a small, single-engine aircraft which he named Spirit of St. Louis, and fly it all by himself. Nobody else had ever tried it before. Some of his friends were a bit afraid and a bit jealous, too, and began to call him, the Flying Fool.
The nickname must have hurt him very much, but Lindy did not let it change his plan. He prepared everything as carefully as he knew how – his charts, his plans, and his gear. In the 20th of May, he set off. The world began to prick up its ears when two steamers far out at sea, sighted his tiny plane overhead.
And the world held its breath a moment when many hours later the tiny plane swept down out of the night sky over the City of Paris, and came to land beside a great crowd of people. Lindy had done it. He had flown all alone 3,610 miles in 33 and ½ hours.
The enthusiastic crowd was ready to mob him with joy, but stepping modestly from his cockpit, the young man whom many had called the Flying Fool simply informed them that his name was Charles A. Lindbergh, and he carried a letter of introduction. It was the first letter ever delivered across the Atlantic Ocean by airmail.
Was Lindy a fool? In a scatter-brained sense, NO, because he took every possible precaution. But in the greatest, noblest sense in which the word is sometimes used of those who do great deeds, YES. And that nickname Flying Fool which was meant to hurt has become a badge of honor.
At your age, I know how important it is to be liked by your friends or your barkada. And the quickest and the surest way to being accepted is not to be different, but to be the same as everybody else. However, as we move up for greater challenges in life we need faith in ourselves and in our God. We are not afraid to be alone at times, especially for the sake of something important and responsible.
In our country today, we need fools like Lindy; fools who are willing to do great things for our country.
Moving up with wisdom
Moreover, we need to move up for greater challenges with wisdom. Wisdom are lessons learned from life experiences that would lead us to a good and successful life. Perhaps, you’ve heard already about Thomas Edison, the father of more than a thousand inventions. He was the one who made this saying famous, “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.”
He was the one who invented the microphone. So, thanks to Edison, you can hear me without my having to shout. But the story I want to share with you about Edison is this one.
When Edison was about your age, he became a newspaper boy. Early in the morning, he would catch the train with a load of newspapers and at every train stop he would sell the newspapers. At night, when he returned home he would count his day’s earnings and divide them according to a previously arranged plan. One dollar a day always went to his mother to help with the household expenses. Whatever was left over was then divided equally into three parts: for buying chemicals for his experiments; for his laboratory equipment; and for his books for self-study.
It is not that Edison did not like to have some snacks. But he understood that in the long run, these things were not as important in his life as the other things for which he spent the money.
Now, this is the point I am trying to make from this story of Edison. When you were younger, when you wanted something, you wanted it right away. Getting along without something right now from the sake of the future was a very difficult thing to do. For example, some of you may remember when you first started receiving a small allowance from your parents. Of course, there was a lot of talk about saving some of the allowance and, at a later time, exchanging it for something you really need. But most of the time, it was just talk. For the temptation of spending it right away for things you wanted right away was usually too much.
But as you move up for greater challenges in life, you need to have wisdom to distinguish what is more important from what is less important. And if necessary to do without what is less important in order to gain what is really important in life.
Moving up with good character
And finally, we need to move up for greater challenges with good character. To a very young child, everything centers in himself. His needs and wishes are all that matter. So we watch without surprise when a baby who is asked to share his toys clutches at them, and burst into tears if urged to give one up.
For us, it ought to be different. The self that was all that mattered when we were babies must be aware that there are other selves that must be considered. At this point, I must cite to you what I consider one of the most important teachings of Jesus: “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be the slave of all” (Mk.10:43). In fact, this teaching has become the guiding spirit of many great men and women in history.
So, it was when Florence Nightingale was about your age, she felt very keenly the needs of other people. She was deeply bothered when she became aware of the poor neighbors in their misery and suffering, while she enjoyed wealth, ease and comfort. She could not stand the thought of other people suffering. She wrote in her diary: “My mind is absorbed with the idea of the suffering of men…all that poets sing of the glories of this world seems to be untrue. All the people I see are eaten up with care or poverty or disease.”
She knew that her lifework must be among those suffering people in order to help them. And nursing would provide that opportunity. But in those days, that is, in the 1830’s, no decent woman would ever think of becoming a nurse as a profession, unlike today. The hospitals in those days were places of wretchedness and filth. But Florence was determined. She never forgot the words of her close friend Dr. Howe, who told her: “My Ms. Florence, it would be unusual for you to go into nursing. But I say to you ‘go forward’ if you have a vocation for that way of life. Act up to your inspiration and you will find there is never anything unbecoming or unladylike in doing your duty for the good of others. Choose, go on with it wherever it may lead you and God be with you.”
What follows from that time on in Ms. Nightingale’s life is a heartwarming story of a woman with courage and determination and good character to spend her life in order to serve the sick and the miserable of the world. She was once called to supervise the military hospitals. In this responsibility, she applied the principles of sanitation and constant care of patients, and in less than six months the hospital death rate was reduced from 42% to only 2.2%! In fact, she gave her whole life to improve the conditions of the hospitals as well as the methods of caring for the sick. She came affectionately and gratefully to be called the Lady with the Lamp.
And so, we need to move up for greater challenges with good character, becoming more and more concerned about other people’s well-being.
Graduation from elementary education is a good time to check the road of life you are taking to make sure that you possess faith, wisdom, and good character as you move up for greater challenges in life. And may God bless and guide you always. Amen. #