Due to the fact that this letter was revised before it was read to students, the author has requested that the most updated version of this post be published here.
Dear Class of 2018,
True confessions: I wrote this middle first, avoiding the introduction. I hate introductions, and I can be very awkward at them, but an English teacher taught me once that they’re important, so what can you do?
Another confession. I used a thesaurus several times while writing this. (None of this is made up. THIS IS REAL LIFE, FOLKS.)
As you can see, my class is very applicable in life.
I’m so very proud of you, freshman class.
As I sat through Honors convocation, and the Senior chapel, all I could think about was all of YOU, how much you’re going to grow, who you’re going to be, the incredible things you’re going to do over the next three years. You are a remarkable group of people, with incredible potential.
Now, you might be thinking, “Here she goes again, with another one of her speeches. BLAH BLAH use your class time wisely BLAH BLAH it’s offensive to ask whether you’ll have to hand in an assignment BLAH BLAH you’re sophomores now…”
At least this time I’m not dressed up like a giant bottle of mustard.
And I always really mean what I say.
You are an incredible group of people.
You are thinkers. From discussions about power and responsibility in To Kill a Mockingbird to various conspiracy theories, you astonish me weekly with the questions you ask and the brilliance and originality of your ideas. Your grammar stories included elevator superheroes, gangster hamsters, rabid gummy bears, and time travel curses. Some of you wrote personal narratives so beautiful you actually made me cry. Others committed so hard to the balcony scene I almost peed my pants laughing. You had to write persuasive speeches for Odysseus, convincing your comrades to follow you to Hades; Joel just drew a boat and wrote “I built this.”
You’re tenacious. You believe what you believe and you’re not ashamed to tell anyone. Most of you will go to your graves refusing to forgive Doodle’s brother, and some of you still haven’t forgiven me for showing you the doll video. Many of you argued so belligerently against young love, I’ll be astonished if a single one of you ends up getting married someday. (Ok, so maybe someday. But if I find out in the next three years that any of you are dating, I’ll be sure to follow you around yelling TEENAGE LOVE ISN’T REAL).
During the first week of school, not a single one of you would laugh at my jokes. Now, some of you kind of do, probably just because you’re trying to be encouraging and nice.
Here’s my favorite thing about you, though: your enthusiasm. You care. You care more than anyone else in this school. You embody a fierce excitement for existing. That’s evident in almost everything you do. You’re talkative and open and eager and passionate and critical and motivated and bright and interested.
Don’t lose that. Please don’t lose it. Here’s a secret to life: if you insist on something hard enough, other people will start to believe it too. That’s the power of group mind, ladies and gentlemen. If the class of 2018 decides that caring is cool, caring will be cool.
I know that high school can sometimes feel like a roller coaster and other times feel more like a weird, slow animatronic train ride. Sometimes I see the edges of apathy creeping their way into your daily lives. You’re sometimes less kind to one another than you were at the beginning of the year. I’m fully aware that note-taking doesn’t require repeatedly tapping the arrow keys on the bottom right of your keyboard. It’s easy to get tired sometimes, I know, and it’s easy to cut corners. Sometimes it’s easy to get an “A” by turning in something you spent ten minutes on. It’s easy to copy your friends’ worksheets. It’s easy to make fun of people that aren’t like you. It’s easy to show up to the basketball game and cheer sort of halfheartedly. But LIFE HINT, ladies and gentlemen: most really excellent things aren’t easy.
Paul wrote a really lovely letter to the church at Philippi. It’s very cool when you think about the context, because everyone involved in the church at Philippi REALLY WANTED to be there, as far as I understand. This is the early church we’re talking about. They weren’t generational Christians, who had been raised on Sunday School and picture books with cartoon Noah’s arks; most of these people had been living normal lives when they suddenly heard about this crazy person named Jesus Christ and changed everything about themselves. The ONLY THING this group of people had in common was this crazy Jesus; that’s it. That’s the only thing that kept all these folks connected. I want you to keep that in mind as you listen to the following passage.
3 I thank my God every time I remember you,” Paul says “4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
That’s the same prayer I have for all of you, and luckily for me, I have a promise from God already that my prayer will be answered. He who started a good work in all of you will be faithful to complete it. And that doesn’t mean it will be about you, that you will get everything you want and everyone will think you are cool and you will walk out of this building with adoring teachers, classmates falling at your feet, a state championship, and a 4.0. God will be faithful to complete HIS good work in you. Turns out, everything in this life is about him. And that’s honestly a wonderful thing, which is something I hope you truly come to believe in the next three years and beyond. It won’t always be easy. Sometimes it will really, really suck. When God promised the Israelites in Jeremiah 29:11 that “he has plans to give [them] hope and a future,” his promise isn’t fulfilled until 40 years of exile have passed. It’s not always going to be fun. But it’s going to be worth it.
Because I’m not allowed to make you sign a contract in blood, all I can ask you is this: Hold on to who you are. When you walk across that graduation stage in 2018, be the thoughtful, tenacious, passionate group that you started as in grade nine. Be kind to each other, because kindness is never dumb. Always walk around in other people’s shoes, because being different isn’t a bad thing. Write in complete sentences, because, come on guys, please just do it. And always keep caring, because caring is what you’re good at, and that is something worthwhile.
Now I’ll quit, because I’m getting sappy. But it is my honest-to-goodness prayer that your love may grow more and more in knowledge and depth of insight (basically, that you’ll learn more and more what it means to love other people well) so that you may be able to discern what is best (figure out the right thing to do) and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ (become the very best versions of yourselves) filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
God bless you.
Lauren (Boersma) Harris (’13) is a spontaneous, idealistic, independent, fierce, over-thinking, damaged, adventurous, ordinary megalomaniac with a healthy sense of self-worth and a high word count. She has been a teacher both indoors and outdoors; she loves improvised comedy, backpacking, and writing, even when it’s required.