Yesterday, I attended the 15th joint commencement exercises of the grade school and the high school departments at the Christian School International (CSI). It's the first time for me to go up the stage in CSI since I've graduated. Seeing all those bright-eyed fellow alumni receive their diplomas and medals brought back memories of my own graduation.
The responses of the graduates, as expected, were filled with hope and idealism. The speakers thanked CSI for preparing them for their next adventure: high school (which isn't as daunting as during my time perhaps, since CSI has its own established high school department now) or college (which is the scarier prospect, since the graduates are leaving CSI entirely). They see bright futures and great adventures ahead of them... and I agree.
But what struck me was the poem called "The Paradoxical Commandments" (written by Dr. Kent M. Keith in 1968) which was recited by the high school valedictorian in ending. The words of the poem are a timely reminder for people who have left the CSI campus long ago, whose versions of idealism have been challenged left and right, whose hearts burn a little less brightly. The poem goes like this:
People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.
People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.
The poem can be accessed at http://www.paradoxicalcommandments.com/