Picture the people you love the most. Think of the moments that have made you fall deeper in love with them, even without realizing it. For example, my mom buys me my favorite foods when I’m stressed, or my dad brings me flowers after a performance, or my friend buys me a heartfelt gift. To me, these moments feel like silent, eloquent confessions.
I hope with all my heart that everyone in this room pictures dozens of moments of subtle, even thankless acts of love and goodness. I hope that the fact we are standing in this room itself is a testament to these acts... because we deserve to be surprised by the love we inspire.
Our lives are hinged around cultivating the very words that are etched in stone at our school- magnanimitas. Latin for greatness of spirit. When I picture what this word means to our school, certain visions are evoked: the athlete leading their team to victory, the artist’s portfolio, or the student pushing through a midnight study session to ace the hardest test of the year. We picture the sort of greatness that is made to be known, marked by numbers on scoreboards and report cards.
Yet behind every embodiment of greatness are hundreds of moments marked by goodness. Without words, these moments reaffirm that where we are in our lives, our passions, and we are worthwhile. These moments or the lack thereof can make or break someone who is born to be great.
Every time my grandma receives cash back for a purchase, she stows it away in a separate part of her purse and then stores it in a separate bank account. As hundreds of dollars accumulate, she doesn’t think of spending them for herself; she waits until someone in her life is in need and gives it away. She teaches me that goodness, by definition, does not demand recognition...that’s why it’s so hard.
There is a lyric from the song Helplessness Blues by the Fleet Foxes that puts this idea elegantly: “I was raised up believing I was somehow unique, like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes, unique in each way you can see. And now after some thinking, I’d say I’d rather be a functioning cog in some great machinery serving something beyond me.” I define goodness as being a part of something bigger than myself and as knowing exactly what someone else needs, no matter how small that may seem. Goodness is a journey. It is natural, even rational, to see ourselves as the center of a world designed for us... growing up is about becoming a part of a whole and realizing that generosity without measure (even without thanks) is what makes us a piece of a community.
Picture the people you love again. Ask yourself how you show them, as they show you, that they are loved and that you are proud of them.
This I believe... to be great is admirable, but to be good is beautiful.