August 1, 2008

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

Back-to-school advice for a high school freshman

Patti LambAugust is here. I can tell by the stacks of multicolored spiral-bound notebooks, folders and lunch boxes on display in the entrance of my favorite store. It’s back-to-school time.

My godchild begins his freshman year of high school this month and I wanted to share a few pieces of advice with him. These tidbits might not be as trendy as the latest gadgets in school supplies, but I hope they come in handy.

• Strive to be comfortable in your own skin. There’s no one else just like you. Others may share your affinity for music, your taste in clothing or your sense of humor. It’s good to find common ground, but remember that God has made you totally unique, with your own set of gifts, for a reason. It’s up to you to embrace, develop and share those gifts, and ultimately use them to bring glory to God.

On the flipside of this same piece of advice …

• Allow others to be comfortable in their own skin. Don’t razz someone whose tastes and talents may not be identical to your own. God made those around you just the way he wants them. Allow others to be themselves, whatever their stature, dialect or demeanor. Let them blossom into the people that God calls them to be without discouraging their progress. And keep an eye out for the underdog.

• Work for knowledge, and go at your own pace. In high school, there are many new class choices, including the “honors” or “advanced” classes. Those are great and challenging. But remember the reason you’re at school in the first place: to receive an education. When I was your age, I was competitive and sometimes downright foolish. I’d stay up until the wee hours of the morning memorizing geometric theorems just so I could maintain a certain grade point average. I neglected to go at my own pace because I was more interested in keeping up with the pack. My dad once said it best: “Don’t work for rank; work for knowledge.”

• Remember that not all knowledge is academic in nature. Some of the most important things I learned in high school had nothing to do with algebra or foreign languages. Life itself can be the greatest teacher. During my sophomore year, a friend was taken from our class in an accident. He never got to celebrate his 16th birthday. At times, life’s most profound lessons may be learned through trials or even loss. In the years to come, it’s also important to learn patience, responsibility, faith, compassion, humility and friendship. Each day is a new opportunity to become skilled at the very art of living and develop into a better ambassador for Christ.

• Keep God with you along the way. I cannot stress enough the importance of this one. From freshman to senior year, you’ll have a wide spectrum of experiences. Some might entail hardship and others might be among your greatest days. But if you seek God’s guidance and remain aware of his presence within you, you cannot go wrong.

It feels like only yesterday that I was baby-sitting for my godchild and now I have to stand on my tiptoes to hug him. I wish him every blessing in the exciting four years to come.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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