On a more bittersweet note, I would like to extend that same sentiment to our most recent graduates. Truly, I offer you all my heartiest congratulations for your hard work over the past couple years and I wish you all the best of luck in your future endeavors.
At this moment for you graduates, one chapter of life has definitively concluded and a fresh new one is beginning. The first page of that new chapter is blank and full of possibilities. This new beginning may cause you both to imagine all of the changes which may be coming your way down the road and to reflect on all of those changes which got you where you are today.
I believe we could all learn from this graduate-perspective as we all move forward with our eyes towards a new year. Let us first reflect upon the events of this past year in order to assess where we stand at this moment.
What have you experienced which has changed you in some way?
What people did you meet who shaped these experiences?
If you underwent a painful experience, how did you learn from it? If you didn’t see its value before, how can you now find some meaning in that hardship?
In your reflections I encourage you to think about the significance of these events with regards to how they influenced your disposition towards the world. Most importantly, think about how you have encountered Christ throughout the course of this year and how you have represented Christ for others.
One way that I personally have changed since the beginning of this academic year is actually in my understanding of what it means to witness for Christ. Before I used to think that it was enough just to treat all those with whom I came into contact with love and respect. I thought that the entirety of my responsibility for others encompassed only those in my immediate community. Over the course of this year, however, I have come to the realization of the full responsibility which Catholics have to care about the well-being of our fellow human beings everywhere.
What I am referring to right now is a concept known as “social justice.” That may sound a bit intimidating and may conjure images of bold protesters taking to the streets for the many injustices in which our world is deeply entrenched. Those images, however, may lead us to the thought that injustice is someone else’s battle; after all, what kind of difference could I make as a student or in a business office or in any profession really?
The key here is not to get overwhelmed by the big picture but to recognize the broader problems of the world so that you can make little differences which will ultimately add up. I have here made a little list of suggestions for ways that you can live in a more conscientious and intentional manner, and I encourage you to try and apply as many as you can in your everyday life.
- Unplug any electronics that you are not using.
- Why? Not only do they increase personal energy costs but they also increase the amount of electricity used daily. Electricity must be supplied most of the time by coal which is oftentimes extracted in such a way that exploits and abuses the local communities.
- Turn off the lights whenever you leave a room. Why? For the same reason as above.
- Buy only as much food as you will eat. If you buy more, eat it as leftovers. Make a conscious decision not to waste food.
- If you anticipate that you have a large quantity of food (say, leftover from a party), find ways to distribute that food to others so that its use may be maximized.
- Only buy those material things that you need. “Material things” sounds pretty abstract, so I’m going to be more specific and say things like clothes, shoes, or knick-knacks. I could go on and on about the significance of this, but I’ll leave the message at this: Jesus calls us to live simply. Don’t let yourself become trapped by the trappings of this world.
- Take short showers. They should only be as long as you need to wash yourself thoroughly; don’t just stand under the stream of water because it is warm.
- Buy with the mentality that you will use it long-term. If it is technology, it is not necessary to always have the most up-to-date product.
- If it is things like plastic bags, think of alternative means of carrying around your food, like Tupper-ware.
- When it comes to driving, unfortunately this cannot feasibly be cut out of our routines as there are places that we need to go and it would be impossible to walk the distance. However, when it comes to short distances which you drive just because you are feeling lazy, you may want to think twice and just walk or bike the distance there.
- If you ever have the option, try to buy a hybrid car. Not only would this be better for the environment, it would also ultimately save your wallet from some costly gas bills.
- But more for the short term, try not to let your car idle when you are just waiting around.
· If it is paper or plastic, RECYCLE IT.
- I cannot stress this enough. This is so easy, and yet most people just opt to throw recyclables into the regular garbage bin when a recycling bin is literally stationed right next to it.
This list is, of course, not comprehensive of all of the ways that you can change your lifestyle to reflect a broader conscientiousness, but it’s a nice start. The point is that each and every one of us—wherever we are in our walks of life—is called to make a difference for a better world, and we are called to do so even in the mundane little habits which make up our routine of life. In the words of Mother Teresa, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” (for more Mother Teresa quotes, see this site: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christiancrier/2013/08/29/top-10-mother-teresa-quotes-to-inspire-you-today/)
Once again I congratulate everyone with the successful completion of another academic school year and I hope you all have a wonderful summer!