It is graduation season and along with graduations come a slew of commencement speeches. Last year, I was asked to give the Commencement address to my high school alma mater…..a wonderful crazy and surprising experience. A number of you requested this, but let’s be honest by late June..the last thing we want to see is another speech.
So, I thought I would share it with you here, figuring if the speech was going to land anywhere, it should be here on Charity Matters. The story is my own, the only one I have. The message is about finding that elusive thing we call happiness..when those intersections of passion and purpose connect.
As Pablo Picasso said, The meaning of life is to find your gift, the purpose of life is to give it away.”
Have you ever had a surreal moment that you never in your wildest dreams thought would happen? Well, that is what happened to me this past weekend. I was the commencement speaker at my Alma Mater, a surreal experience for sure!
Confession: I was a bit naughty in high school and had at least annual trips to the headmaster’s office, so standing there on Sunday, imparting some of the lessons I have learned this far, was both a privilege and a full circle moment.
If you had to tell students what you have learned along the way, what would you say? I know! It is overwhelming to pick just one message. So to give you all the cliff notes version, here is what I came up with. I talked about living a life full of purpose. Pablo Picasso’s quote, “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”
A life full of purpose breaks down in to the following 6 categories:
Exercise- You have to take care of yourself first before you can care for others.
Make friends- What is life without them? There isn’t one!
Road bumps- Life is full of them, they are just road signs
Serve, serve and serve- Charity Matters…just sayin
One thing leads to the next-Regardless of your plan, purpose’s plan is bigger
Gratitude-The ultimate key to happiness.
At the end of the day, I think this is what we all aspire to, isn’t it? To find our purpose. It is after all that magical intersection of where your passion and purpose create this elusive thing we call happiness. Sunday, I felt it. Communicating and sharing, the message of service was my intersection, one I never thought I would find….but so worth the wait.
Today I am sitting in the front row of my alma mater’s graduation ceremony. It is an all girls school and the ceremony is filled with tradition, ceremony, white gowns and could be confused as a debutante ball to a casual observer. In all the pomp and circumstance, I find myself tuning out the speeches and looking at the beautiful roses sitting in every graduates lap.
Their roses do not have any thorns, but as I reflect back decades ago when I too sat on that stage, I was nothing more than a thorny rose. Sure, I was young and full of energy but the reality is that what was within was still thorny. The irony is that as I look at the fresh-faced beauties in their white gowns gazing blindly into their futures, it is only now that I realize their true beauty is yet to come.
What they don’t realize is that their lives are like the roses in their laps, de-thorned, closed buds that are full of fragrance and possibility. Where does the real beauty begin? How does the rose lose its thorn and open?
The answer I believe comes with each act of grace and kindness. It is the moments of a life that open the bud. Each moment a gift of growth and which slowly opens the flower. Over time the petals burst to full-bloom, the fragrance heavenly and the inner beauty abounds, unleashed for all.
As I sit here, smiling and watching, each girl takes her roses, grabs their petals and throws them up into the wind… all the petals blow away, as each bud awaits its turn to open.
I mentioned to you the other day that I am both a Pasadena girl, California that is, and an alumnus of an amazing girls school that’s motto is “Actions Not Words.” This mantra has defined so many alumni of our school and none more than Kelly Langs.
Kelly, went to Mayfield Senior School and was told at a very young age that she needed a lung replacement, although she had never smoked. Kelly passed away a few days ago on New Years Day 2013. Last night Kelly donated her organs, a gift she had waited a lifetime for and now was able to share with others.
I am reposting Kelly’s last words via her blog here which she wrote on Dec 2, 2012, prior to her receiving her own gift of organ donation by someone else on Dec 6, 2012.
True Beauty in Organ Donation: Organs are precious and they have the ability to keep giving. … It’s the cycle of life, and we as humans have an amazing choice to make in that hour of our end – to give the gift of life to someone next to you who needs it.
It’s not like any other gift you’ll ever have the chance to give again. It’s a onetime thing, and the most precious gift of all, one that you could very well be asking for one day yourself! We’re all human, we all function on organs and we’re all part of this cycle of life – together.
I’m on the transplant list, waiting for lungs. I’m also a registered organ donor in case there’s anything of quality and strength that can be passed on. I know my eyes are awesome, 20/20 vision! So someone will be able to see for the first time when I leave this body. That truly makes me happy and makes me feel like I’ve chosen the ultimate human gift!
You can give the gift of life too.
In honor of Kelly we have set up a way for you to become a registered organ donor. If you feel you have learned from Kelly’s journey this is something you should consider. To learn more about becoming an organ donor please click here: http://www.donatelifecalifornia.org/KellyLangs
Multiple people this very second are preparing for their journey to receive the gift of Kelly’s organ donation. They “got the call” a few hours ago and are told “we have a match for you”. They are rushing to the hospital, calling their loved ones with immense anticipation and fear, and probably updating their blogs too. Believe in yourself, Kelly would say to them, everything will be okay. Appreciate every moment.
Kelly donated her organs at 11pm PST, January 3rd. Her liver and both her kidneys will be going to three very lucky people.
During the organ transplant last night at 11pm there was a moment of silence as Kelly’s words above were read out loud in the operating room to honor Kelly’s gift and the remembrance of her life.
Being a Pasadena girl, I love a good parade as much as anyone, its part of my DNA. This year’s Rose Parade was especially meaningful for me for a handful of reasons.
For starters, a dear friend of mine’s daughter made the Rose Court and this year’s Rose Queen, Vanessa Manjarrez, is a senior at my alma mater Mayfield Senior School. A school thats motto “Actions Not Words,” has become a life mantra for us alums.
It was exactly that, action that I saw in the parade. No, not the horses and marching bands but rather a subtle call to action from service organizations such as the Shriners, the Rotary Club, Kiwanis International and the Lions Club. All organizations whose sole purpose is service to help another.
Not to mention floats from non-profit organizations such as the Salvation Army, the Aids Healthcare Foundation, City of Hope and Donate Life. 85 million people watching those colorful floats going down Colorado Blvd and yet, it’s somehow so much more than dried flowers on a float but rather the message of hope and service.
Wells Fargo made my day when they put boys from Verbum Dei High School in Watts inside their stage-coach. They could have chosen anyone and yet, Wells Fargo chose underserved boys who work to put themselves through high school….again the call to action and a personal highlight because I love this school.
However, the real star of this year’s parade was the Eric Pazz on the Canines with Courage float, which honored dogs who served in the military. It was the surprise reunion between this purple heart winner and his wife and son, that took the entire world audience’s breath away. A real moment of action and love that was palpable. At the end of the day and the beginning of a New Year, isn’t love for one another whats it’s all about?