When walking through life, always carry a pocketknife
I had intended to write this as a potential graduation commencement speech for Wolf Point High School, similar to Mary Schmich’s essay she wrote for The Chicago Tribune back in 1997 where she recommended that young folks wear sunscreen — among other things.
Mind you, I probably wasn’t going to speak at graduation, but I’m sure my words would have at least made print in The Wolf Point Herald News’ back pages.
However, before I could divulge my words of wisdom on the Wolf Point graduates, I came home to Cheney.
Although Cheney and Medical Lake high school grads have received their diplomas and are preparing for the journey ahead, that doesn’t mean parents or friends can’t hand them this column, especially if they find at least a couple of these tips noteworthy.
And just like Schmich recommended to her readers, if you’re over the age of 25, I encourage you to come up with a list of your own pieces of advice to give to someone younger than you, whether it is a loved one who is taking the next step in life or a kid you pass on the street.
Ladies and gentlemen of the class of 2014, I advise you to always carry a pocket knife.
Although small, a pocketknife can come in handy in most situations.
It can help remove a loose thread off your dress shirt before an important interview.
It can help open a can during a camping trip.
You can use it to ward off animals that dig in your garbage or rose bushes — or more importantly — to defend yourself from an attacker.
Now I will dispense the rest of my advice.
• Give hugs, but make sure you ask permission first.
• If a child gives you a present — even as something as mundane as a rock — take it anyways and say “thank you.” If they draw you a picture, hang it on your wall.
• Say thank you to military veterans, law enforcement and firefighters. You never know when they’ll be there to help you out of a situation.
• If you haven’t registered to vote then sign up, immediately. Even if you’re not up-to-date on current issues or politics, it’s still important to voice your opinion.
• When you see your relatives, tell them you love them. If you live far away, call them. You never know when they’ll be gone.
• Take up a hobby that forces you out of your comfort zone and stretches your imagination.
• Travel away from the city, even if it’s just for the weekend. If you live in the country, take a trip downtown.
• Take pictures, but shoot something else besides your face. There are plenty of interesting sites and things happening around you.
• If you find yourself stuck at the doctor’s office for several hours, bring a book. It will make the time go by faster.
• Say “Happy Birthday,” even if it’s to a stranger. If it’s not their birthday, wish them a “Happy Unbirthday.”
• When someone older asks you to guess their age, always go for a lower number. You just might make their day.
• Sing to the radio when you’re driving on the road. It will take the edge away when you’re stuck in traffic.
• Be passionate about your favorite sports teams and athletes. Attend local sporting events. Celebrate every victory, no matter how big or small, but don’t take every loss to heart. It’s only a game and life goes on.
• Don’t forget to celebrate your personal victories.
• If your favorite celebrity does something that offends a group of people, don’t make excuses for them when they receive criticism. Just because they have your admiration doesn’t mean you need to — nor should you — give them a pass. They wouldn’t do the same for you.
• Don’t be so quick to follow your friends into a business opportunity or a life-changing adventure. Their plans may not suit yours.
• Learn from not only your mistakes, but also ones made by others. Sometimes you can learn more from watching an idiot than you can from listening to a genius.
• If you see your professor at a bar and they offer to have a drink with you, take them up on it. Pick their brain a little and learn some of their stories and experiences. You may learn something they couldn’t teach you in the classroom. Just don’t expect them to pay your tab.
Oh and before I forget, keep a bottle of sunscreen on you.
Al Stover can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.