Words for a School Leavers’ Service
Ignore everything your father says to you now. He’s an idiot. But be prepared to be amazed about how much sense he’s talking in five years time. (It’s not that you’ve grown up enough to understand what he’s saying: he will have learnt a lot).
Learn to lay bricks. This is a good and necessary skill. It’s not just useful for doing DiY around a house. It’ll teach you something about the dignity and rewards of labour.
Never believe a single word or image in an advert. They don’t want you to be happier, taller, sexier, more successful in work or love. They just want to sell you things. (It’s your money they’re after, not your welfare).
Go easy on “stuff”. You’ll have to carry everything you ever bought and wasted with you in the next life, so make it easier on your dead self.
Read at least one book a year which you disagree with.
Never say that you aren’t ready to settle down or grow up. Guy Gibson won a VC for the Dambusters Raid in 1943, and had to write the condolence letters to the families of 53 killed airmen before he had breakfast next day. He was 23. Growing up is one of the pleasures of life. Don’t postpone it.
The only way you’ll have a life is by learning to give it away: to others in service, to one other in love. Live your life for yourself and it will crumble to dust in your hands. Live your life for others and it will never be taken away from you.
Ignore cool. “Cool” is a lie told to make us despise other people. Cultivate “warmth”. Engage with people, especially those left out by the cool ones.
If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain about the way the country is run.
If you don’t volunteer in some way, you have no right to complain about the way the country is going to the dogs.
Life isn’t cheap. Life is expensive, and has always been costly. It’s death that’s cheap: cheap to get and cheap to impose on others. Your life is valuable only as much as you value the lives of others.
A music festival is 100,000 people confusing dysentery with a good time. The best experiences come in small groups.
Look forward to friendships that have lasted forty years. Experiences shared and stories told and retold are the way we know we are human.
“FOMO” and “YOLO”: two more lies. Fear Of Missing Out is the real reason lurking beneath You Only Live Once justifications. Decide what is important to you and your family (however you want to define that) and do that. Don’t let other people try to sell you experiences.
Look for God and happiness in the small things, the small things that last. There is more truth in a pair of boots that have been polished and patched for 20 years than in this year’s “must have”, “must buy” fashions.
Decide what your favourite meal is, and learn to cook it.
Change your mind every six months, and learn to cook the new meal.
Make sure the cooking involves washing dirt off ingredients: it’s not real food if you use scissors to prepare it rather than a peeler.
Eat something you have grown yourself every week, even if it’s just mustard and cress in a sandwich. Oh, and bake your own bread.
Ignore everything I’ve said to you now. I’m an idiot. But come back to me in five years time and be amazed about much I’ll have learnt in those five years. And, strangely, some of it might even be familiar.