It has become a tradition in certain universities across the land, for retiring professors to deliver their “last lecture”. This title was made famous by Randy Pausch, who in 2007 delivered a “last lecture” speech at Carnegie Mellon University, shortly before passing away from terminal cancer.
Fortunately, for most who deliver a last lecture upon retirement they live long productive lives after their speech. The common denominator among all their ‘last lectures’ is that they are asked to think deeply about what matters most and what wisdom they would impart to the world if they knew it was their last chance. Please know that I don’t profess to have the knowledge or ability of these noted scholars but for me this is my last lecture in terms of penning a message for this website. With that frame of mind my ‘last lecture’ is simple.
Love the children you serve. The best determining factor for a successful adult is a happy childhood. They only get one shot at being a child, they only get one second grade experience, one chance to be an eighth grader or one chance to have a childhood with people that genuinely care and love them. We must give it our all, we can’t recoup it for them and they cannot do it over. We can’t afford to waste opportunities to lift them to higher ground, to make this world a better and safer place. Don’t stay in education if you cannot do this, the price is too high to pay.
Love what you do. Love your job, love the people you serve. For over thirty years I have cherished arriving at work each morning knowing that I will see incredible things happening for children. Each day there were smiles, small talk, caring people and new ideas. Daily there have been people serving, giving of their time and talents unselfishly to improve the quality of life for students, employees and parents. I have been the benefactor of kindness by individuals who have been genuinely concerned about my weekend, how my family was doing, what I thought about a particular subject and last but not least expressions of gratitude. Thank you for taking an interest in my life, my career and the important work of educating children. I express a sincere and humble thank you to all of you that smiled, that understood, that spoke kind words and performed your labors with zeal.
Love to be the difference. Each day I have been exposed to the heart and soul of education, the people on the front lines that give it their all to make a difference. Your passion, dedication and determination to improve society through education has always inspired me to want to do better, be better and hope for better. All our roles are important in serving children, we need clean buildings, nurturing secretaries, helpful school nurses, safe bus drivers, prepared teachers, supporting paraprofessionals, organized and visionary administrators, dedicated maintenance workers, committed counselors and caring cooks. We need each and every one of you. Education is such an essential work, perhaps the greatest work that we can accomplish for future generations. Through education lives are enriched, ideas are shared, health improved and a greater understanding of humanity is acquired. Thanks to you all, you are great!
Lastly I would tell you to ask yourself the question, “is this really a problem?” I write this because of a life changing experience I had. Two years ago my husband and I went to Africa with some friends. We had a fabulous time seeing the wonders of nature. While in Nairobi, Kenya, I met a gentleman named Steven. Steven ran an orphanage and sold wood carving to help sustain the orphanage. He had over 150 children that were (and are) dependent on him for food, clothing, housing and education. His task is daunting and overwhelming. His carvings are beautiful and priceless. When I returned home I made arrangements to have him ship me some so I could sell them to help the orphanage out in a very small way.
Due to some unique circumstances last fall, a kind friend brought Steven to Utah for a short visit to help him try and acquire some funding for his orphanage. Here is where the life changing event occurred…after he had been here a few days his host took him to Costco. Steven was so overwhelmed by seeing so many items, so much food and such abundance of goods that he literally could not walk down the aisle. He had to sit in front of the store and just watch the people come and go because he did not know where to put it in his mind, he could not wrap his arms around such a scene. He truly was overcome with such opulence. While on the ride back to where he was staying he was extremely quiet, he could not talk, he was processing so much in his mind. Finally when they pulled into the driveway he said to his friend in earnest sincerity, “What do you consider to be a problem?” In other words, do you know what your life is like? I know in his mind he was saying, “I worry every day about a child dying for lack of nutrition, I worry about rain because the children sleep on slabs of cement, I worry about disease, I worry about finding one text book for fifty students to share, what do you worry about, is it really a problem?”
Since that day I have asked myself that question often and it has caused me to have a better perspective on the big picture of life. In always asking, “Is this really a problem?” the small minor inconveniences don’t have nearly the impact they once did. I have not been nearly as concerned if the traffic is heavy; I at least have a car and a road on which to drive. I have not been quite as upset if something I ordered did not arrive on time, nor has the day been ruined if there was a blizzard, at least I stayed warm.
In closing, keep serving, keep loving, keep a passion for education. Keep the perspective of what is really important in your life. Realize how blessed we are to live and work where we do. Enjoy the journey, it goes by swiftly.
My best always,
Linda K. Carver