Guest columnist Rev. Julie G. Olmsted: Hard-won wisdom is gold for graduates

Hopkins Academy’s 360th graduation ceremony in Hadley on Friday, May 31, 2024.

Hopkins Academy’s 360th graduation ceremony in Hadley on Friday, May 31, 2024. PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER EVANS


Published: 06-04-2024 6:54 PM


Somehow, I am filled with longing this time of year to pass on anything I can think of that might make smoother the often daunting and treacherous road that follows high school or college graduation. Many others did the same for me long ago; sometimes I listened. Sometimes I didn’t.

I have heard it said in sacred places that a smart person learns from their mistakes, but a wise one learns from the mistakes of others. Consider this a love letter from someone who has made plenty of mistakes but has been saved from the mouth of the lion on more than one occasion because of a few golden treasures picked up along the way:

The Golden Mean: It is the avoidance of excess in either direction. It is the safety zone of moderation. Experimentation has a strong attraction, a great magnetic pull, especially in the coming years of young adulthood. But foolish and dangerous experimentation can lead to heartbreak and irreparable damage to relationships, reputations, and possibilities for the future.

Listen to the quiet voice of wisdom calling, the values and experience of your respected elders. What they have to offer will stand the test of time. They will guide you through many dangers, toils, and snares.

The Golden Rule: Kindness will never be outmoded. Gentleness is a disappearing trait in our culture, but its importance and power are little understood or appreciated. Common courtesy and consideration of others will take you far and cover a multitude of sins when you find yourself in the occasional hot water that you will inevitably get into.

Pot of Gold: Don’t just dream of being rich; save money. If you put away just a few dollars a month for several years, you will have enough to purchase something you really want. Better yet, invest for the distant future, like retirement. It sounds far off now, but the years pass quickly, and saving will put you ahead of the pack.

Golden Circle: Stay connected with those who accept, support, and bless you: your faith community, your family, and true friends. You are not alone and were not meant to be. What you take for granted now will grow precious through the years. Keep in touch. Call to say hello and how are you. Express with word and deed your appreciation. In these unprecedented times, we need each other more than ever.

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The Golden Key: Lay claim to the wonderful words of “Desiderata:” “You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.” But you cannot reconcile this mantle to yourself until and unless you accept responsibility for yourself and the choices you make. You may have had a hard life, one with minimal support and tough challenges. (I do know about this.) But you must now seek your own treasures of love, prosperity and stability and, with integrity, set the course for your destiny. Never believe that you cannot do it. Take the gold and run with it.

The Rev. Julie G. Olmsted lives in Northampton.