I’ve been thinking quite a lot recently about graduating seniors, both from high school and college.
Tough time to graduate.
We thought 2019 was terrible in our ag world. It certainly was. But 2020…what can any of us say at this point? It’s been…unimaginably awful. In every conceivable direction.
I have 2 nephews, Max and Andy, that graduated from college this month and a niece, Aimee, that graduated from high school here in Rochester, MN this past Friday. Of course none got the same cap & gown walk across the big stage experience we all did…smiles, family and friends in the audience, joyous and memorable last times with your good friends/classmates.
Life stinks sometimes. More than sometimes, actually.
But we make do. We press on. We trust in and hope for better days ahead.
Last Monday, Memorial Day '20, I got to thinking about graduating seniors again while I was on AgriTalk Radio show (www.AgriTalk.com) with my friend and host Chip Flory. I touched on the smile inducing story of Austin Koch of West Union, IA. Austin is a graduating Senior at North Fayette Valley H.S. there. Rather than hang his head and mope about what are certainly depressing circumstances, can’t be with friends, no graduation ceremony, Austin stayed busy finishing restoration work on the John Deere 630 tractor that was his great grandfather’s.
I find one very big reason to be HOPEFUL about our future, even given the current struggles we’re facing…to be our young people. Like Austin. Keep smiling. Keep working. Day by day.
Not that any high school or college asked me…“Hey, Machinery Pete, can you deliver our graduation address please?”
But if they did…this is what my 2020 Graduation message would be:
OPEN YOUR WINDOW WIDER
Fall of 2009 our 2 daughters were both still in high school. Daughter No. 2 was a sophomore. Daughter No. 1 a senior and also a violinist in the school orchestra. My wife Jacque and I one day that fall found ourselves on the west side of town, talking to a violin repair expert about Daughter No. 1’s violin.
Needed some tweaking.
Our meeting ran a little long. Jacque had to scoot back to work, so it would be up to me to zip across town to pick up Daughter No. 2 at school for her scheduled Orthodontist appointment. My wife and I looked at the time before she left.
“Oh oh, you’re gonna get it.”
Yep. I was going to be a little late picking up Daughter No. 2 at school. The “oh oh” comment from my wife? She knew what would be waiting for me upon my slightly late arrival.
Sophomore high school daughter attitude, as in…“Dad, do you know you are late?”
I knew that exact reception was indeed highly likely to be waiting for me after my 15 min. drive across town to pick her up at school a bit late. And the fact I knew this attitude would be waiting for me was, if I’m honest, getting me increasingly upset on my 15 min. cross town trek.
Now, I realize…completely and utterly NORMAL for a teenager to occasionally display some attitude toward mom and/or dad for whatever reason. And Daughter No. 2, like Daughter No. 1, was a great kid. Very good grades, super involved, good friends, beautiful caring heart.
But that day, on my 15 min. drive across town to pick her up, a bit late, I was not in the mood for any attitude.
I got it, as suspected, upon my arrival.
Frown. Car door shut bit louder than normal after getting in. A look. “You’re late dad.”
Now, I’m quite sure if you talk to the people I’ve been closest to throughout my life I’m confident they would describe Greg/Machinery Pete as…reserved, quiet.
Not that day.
I put my pickup into drive and we rolled away from the front of the high school. The Orthodontist’s office was close by. I soaked up the attitude and silent treatment I was getting on the short drive to ortholand. We arrived. I put the pickup in park.
“Honey, we’re going to have a little talk. And you are going to listen.”
“Do you think I was late on purpose? Do you think I am trying to make your life difficult? Have you considered asking me why I was late?”
Quiet reserved dad was riffin’ now…
“Why can you not choose to think the best of someone, of me, in this or any situation vs immediately and always thinking the worst? Do you realize how very, very much more difficult your life is going to be going forward if you treat the people in your life this way, your family, your friends, your future co-workers. I am angry now because on my drive over to pick you up…I knew and mom knew that you were going to be upset. And that made me upset.”
Still riffin’…I delivered my main point.
“You need to Open Your Window Wider honey…try to see the world through someone else’s eyes. Try to see and think about things from their point of view. Think the best of them.”
Daughter No. 2 quietly absorbed my dad message. We walked into the Orthodontist’s office together. No slams of the pickup door.
Daughter No. 2 now a Chemical Engineer 5 years into her career with a Fortune 500 company. Married. Happy. Beautiful loving heart, same as Daughter No. 1, also happily married and a high school math teacher.
Graduating seniors my message to you is that Life works in amazing unexpected ways. You will see. In riffin’ out my Open Your Window Wider message to my daughter you know what happened? Over the next days, weeks, months and years I realized it was I who most needed to hear that message.
Open Your Window Wider Greg. As a dad. As a husband. As a friend. As a business owner. As a citizen. As a forgiven sinner.
Try to see the world through another’s eyes.
I will tell you seniors this is very difficult to do. Very difficult. But like so many difficult things in life…so worth doing. So worth continually trying. You will fail often. I fail often.
But keep trying…it is a never ending and constant challenge. The easy thing to do is just leave your window happily shut as you hurtle through your life. Things are as they are. Change? Nah…I’m good. Got things all figured out.
Seniors, I’m telling you straight…take that attitude and your life will be harder than it needs to be and will be less full and rich than it could be.
Don’t continually try to open your window wider and you’ll find…that it actually is impossibly difficult being right all the time.
To whatever degree you are able to push and shove and jam your window to the world open wider…you will find…OPPORTUNITY.
2020 has been awful. This past week?
Last Monday, Memorial Day '20, some hours after I hopped off AgriTalk Radio show talking about Austin Koch of West Union, IA and the John Deere 630 tractor he restored that was his great grandpa’s, an incident occurred 85 miles to the north of me, in south Minneapolis.
His name was George Floyd.
I watched the 8 1/2 min. video on Twitter…and my heart broke.
Couple days later Daughter No. 2, the Chemical Engineer, called to talk. A beloved and well respected manager at the Fortune 500 company she works at had passed away on Monday, Memorial Day '20. He was far too young. Children still at home. He was a black man. And as he lay dying from cancer, the final moments of his life, what was it he communicated he was worried most about…
His young black son…growing up safe.
I tried to be the best dad I could be to our 2 daughters. Listen. Steer them in the right direction. And as a parent the path forward to success always seemed very defined to me:
- Do well in school
- Work hard
- Treat people well
And the rest will take care of itself. Yes, there will be bumps along the way. Many. Some large ones. But keep on keeping on. Be a good person. Treat others well. Work hard. The path to success. For all to see…America…roll up our sleeves.
But if I stop here, and work to push and jam open my own window wider…I have to confess…as a father and parent of 2 wonderful kids, now 29 and 26…I never once worried they could unfairly be killed by those trusted to protect us all.
Seniors, the easy thing to do is leave your window shut. Don’t do that. Work hard to shove your window open wider. Remember that benefit I said to doing so?
To build a better world. For All. Please, we need you to succeed.