September 13, 2013

Be Our Guest / Greg Zoeller

Life lessons learned 40 years ago still apply to today’s youths

I wish I had written a letter to myself when I was in high school that I could read today, almost 40 years later.

Recently, I was honored to be asked to speak to some students at my alma mater, Our Lady of Providence High School, a Catholic school in Clark County in southern Indiana, as part of a career focus program.

As Indiana’s attorney general, I am often asked to speak on a range of subjects and have plenty of material to draw upon, but it’s surprisingly difficult to cast one’s mind back 40 years and formulate a message that high school students would find relevant.

In trying to assess the interest of my high school-age audience and give them something to think about, I recalled that I received a good education, one that helped get me admitted into Purdue University and later Indiana University School of Law. But what led me to a professional career choice in law and government? Was there anything from my kindergarten through 12th grade Catholic education that may have influenced my decision?

I told the students that my early education, while sitting in one of their seats, taught me to want to do something with my life to serve others.

And while probably daydreaming more than my teachers might have appreciated, I was instilled with a sense of God’s love from my family and the friends and teachers I had at Providence.

I learned not to give up on myself when things didn’t work out, and to continue to believe that God had a purpose for my life and that he would speak to me and call me to a vocation of service. It may have been that when my mind wandered and while I was not paying attention in class, he quietly whispered to me.

It may have been when I attended a meeting where then-Sen. Birch Bayh spoke during my days at Providence that the thought of public service passed through my mind.

Regardless of the impetus, the fact that I was open to a calling, that I was willing to listen and pray for direction in my life and to never give up, to have faith in myself as the product of all those who loved me then and now is a reflection of God’s love for me as part of his plan.

Loving God above all and loving our neighbor as ourselves requires a faith in yourself as having worth and meaning. Never giving up on yourself is an active expression of your faith in God to make you an instrument of his love for everyone.

So I told the students to be open to the call, to pray and to listen while you daydream, but don’t daydream too much!

(Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller is a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis.)

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