This year, Joan and I celebrate the graduations of three grandchildren: Donald received his PhD and moved to Switzerland to continue post graduate studies; Andrea graduated with her teaching certificate; and Hannah graduated with her pre-med degree and was accepted into the Emory University medical school.
For many students, however, graduation is a mixed blessing. They feel that feeling of new “independence” but yet fear the unknown that lies beyond that short but long walk across that stage; a cold impartial competitive world where they will now compete with other graduates for jobs where skill requirements are ever-changing.
Some graduates walk off that stage thinking they are done with learning. How wrong they are; learning is an ever on-going requirement to compete in an ever-changing world job market. The wise student quickly learns to use education as their servant, not as their master.
Even we who are aging continue to learn, not to compete in the job market, but to prepare for our graduation from this mortal world to enter into that eternal world where God will look at our earthly credentials and assign us to that kingdom in heaven we are prepared to enter into.
Recently, while pondering how to deal with an issue that came up while writing my latest book, I studied the Old Testament with a new intensity. I strongly believe, as do millions of other Americans, that the Bible was the primary source of inspiration that led America’s Founding Fathers to break with Great Britain and become a new nation — a nation founded on the principles of freedom and liberty first given to the ancient Israelites by Jehovah on Mt. Sinai.
But I didn’t know how those principles were manifested to the Founders, of why the Founders were so inspired by their bibles. I read the words of Moses over and over again with little success. Then a friend suggested I read the Institute Manual for the Old Testament.
This manual’s chapters dealing with the Ten Commandments and the Mosaic Law provided me the answers I needed to move on with my work. For me, understanding the meaning behind these commandments and laws led to what was perhaps for me the greatest learning week in my life. It was an exciting week for me. Because of this additional learning I now feel better prepared for my upcoming graduation from mortality into eternal life.
In April, Joan and I were once again invited to be judges in the Woodstock High School Vision Quest program, a program each graduating student must participate in during their senior year. We love being involved in such a powerful teaching program that helps each student to look in the mirror — and ask “can I do this?”
This program requires the student to do something few of them had ever done before — seek help from a community mentor, not a teacher or family member, to help them develop a real-life project and see it through to completion.
As I listened to the presentations of eight students I realized that this was very similar to my Future Farmers of America projects I was involved in during high school in the ’40s. A powerful way for youth to learn about real life and about themselves and learn about their personal talents.
I even learned something for myself while volunteering for this project. One of the student’s projects was writing a book. He presented his published book to the judges and I learned from it the publisher has their office in Canton.
The next day I called that office and asked questions about their business and how they helped this student produce such a well planned out project. It was another learning experience for me and my book.
One never knows where one will learn something new while helping others. It’s the principle of the Lord’s Golden Rule — “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” — in operation. And VQ provided us with eight examples of how different each student’s talents are, and how different each student reacts to life’s real challenges.
VQ is a powerful program where students learn much about real life.
Donald Conkey is a retired agricultural economist in Woodstock.