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Seniors 2009, congratulations!

Community newspapers throughout the land will be filled with the Class of 2009’s pictures. Church bulletins and services will be honoring those graduates who are a part of their congregations. Daddies and mommas will be wondering just how did these 12 years go by so fast. It is that time of the year. Graduation day is upon us.

It comes too soon. Back when I was in high school it was in June that we graduated. That was in the days of six-weeks periods and the old college system of quarters. Those days are long gone.

I graduated from Pelham High School on June 5, 1967, a date that I cannot forget. I also graduated from the University of Georgia, but I don’t remember that day nearly as well as I remember high school graduation. Although there were many friends at UGA, the friends I remember best are from high school.

Parents may marvel at the time flown by as they see their sons and daughters graduate this year, and I still can’t believe that it has been over 40 years since I received that high school diploma. Regardless of my memory, it’s been a long time and the time has come for another graduation.

Congratulations to this year’s class, particularly the ones here in Bainbridge, but also to those anywhere. High School graduation is a huge step forward in life.

Class of 2009, has anyone offered you advice? Anyone told you “you can do anything you want?” Anyone told you about the great and wonderful challenges awaiting you? How many times have you heard that “you are our future?” If you haven’t heard those phrases yet, just be patient, they’re coming.

Don’t worry about me. I’m not going to wade too deeply into the waters of giving advice. Oh, there might be a tad of it here, but basically I want to congratulate you on getting this far. For the record, statistics will show that about 70 percent of those who enter the ninth grade in Georgia schools finish the task of gaining a diploma. I’m glad you did! Now what?

That’s a good question. First of all, stop. Let the dust settle on your high school experience and accept the congratulations for what you have accomplished. Let it sink in that you have finished something. You started this school thing about a dozen years ago and you have shown the fortitude to see it through.

I realize you didn’t have a choice some days. There were those times when you might not have wanted to go to school. It would have been better to stay at home and sleep. Perhaps you had a test and you did not feel prepared. You were afraid of what the results might be. Remember that day when the book report was due and you had not finished your book?

Either momma or daddy made you get out of bed and go to school. You didn’t want to, but you did. Believe it or not, that was good for you. You have finished one task that is important and you deserve to celebrate for a little while. Don’t be too anxious to leave this short time of celebration. Let me warn you. Accolades are few and far between in this world. Stop for a moment and enjoy these few weeks.

After the congratulations, what then? Don’t stop! Sounds a little contradictory, doesn’t it? But here’s what I mean. Don’t stop learning. Don’t let the grass grow under your feet. The best course of action would be to continue your education. I know you are tired of tests, classes, teachers and bells that tell you when to start and bells that tell you when to finish.

Yet, you have only begun the journey of life. You’ve spent the last 12 or so years learning how to learn, so don’t stop now. The old saying that every journey begins with the first step ends too soon. Journeys may begin with one step, but one step does not make a journey. Don’t stop.

Find new ways and things to learn. Treat life as if it were a bicycle. I know you’re driving automobiles now, but remember when you had lots of fun on a bicycle? This journey called life is sort of like that. You’re either moving forward or falling off. It’s much more fun to move forward than to fall off!

Let’s see. I’ve said, “Stop and smell the roses.” This graduation thing is a bed of roses. Don’t miss it; it only comes around once.

I’ve also said, “Don’t stop at just this one bed of roses.” The world has many different fragrances. If I only smelled the roses, I would miss the Confederate Jasmine or the gardenias or some other fragrance that would be even more satisfying.

Finally, Graduate of 2009, let me be real. I’ve talked of celebrations and accomplishments, moving forward and continuing growth. Sounds like the world is at your feet, doesn’t it? I guess that comes with the positive experience of high school graduation.

All of that is true. I do happen to believe that life can be lots of fun and there is great success waiting to be claimed. I also know from past experience that there are plenty of times when the potholes will be more numerous than the smooth pavement. I know that road. I also am familiar with lots of smells that are worse than roses.

You’re going to need more than just yourself as you drive through life. If you’re fortunate, you’ve had parents or other loved ones who have helped you. Don’t forget them just because you are graduating. They are proud of you and are probably not expecting to be repaid. That’s a bill you couldn’t pay, by the way.

Also, don’t forget that there is one who is greater than all others. He knows you better than you know yourself, so don’t try to fool Him. Get to know Him. Be honest with Him. Lean on Him. Trust in Him. If you will do that, you’ll have no need to worry about this new experience that is coming your way. Congratulations and may God bless you.