By Charles S. Meyer ’00
I look out today, my eyes see two thousand stories, two thousand
struggles, and two thousand memories that have filled our
four years together. If I had but the talent and time, I
should like to recount some of those tales, amusing, heart-warming,
enlightening. Yet, with only a few brief minutes at my summons,
I would like to speak of something else I see before me,
something that shines forward from each of you this day.
It is something that fuses our two thousand memories into
one. You see, my friends, when I gaze outwards today, I cannot
help but marvel at the amazing gifts present in this Class
of the Millennium.
Before me this fine May morning I see an abundance of wonderful
minds filled with new ideas, teeming with yet unasked questions.
I recognize young men and women who have lit up the stage
with shows such as Guys and Dolls, and Joseph.
I see men and women whose athletic ability and tenacious
hard work have carried the Holy Cross tradition to competitive
venues throughout our nation. I behold volunteers whose concern
for the city and world around them has challenged them to
give hours of time and effort teaching, building, sharing
and healing. I see jokesters and comedians whose light-hearted
sensibilities have brought smiles and laughter to our darkest
days. I see those in student government who have patiently
listened and tirelessly worked to make our time on this hill
a little more rewarding. I see writers whose gilded words
have filled the columns of our Friday Crusader. I see musicians
whose angelic concerts, a cappella evenings, Crossroads jams
and choir music have delighted our ears and stirred our hearts
with emotion. I see readers, greeters, liturgical coordinators
and Eucharistic ministers who have inspirited our campus
liturgies and welcomed us to worship. I see among you many
quiet confidantes, R.A.s, roommates, and precious companions
who were never too busy to patiently abide by a suffering
friend. You hold such a vast and resplendent store of human
gifts it electrifies my very soul, and it is of these gifts
that I would like to speak to you today.
First, a story-a lesson in gifts-affectionately referred
to in my family as the "Hillside Chat." I had just entered
my second year at Regis High School, a fine Jesuit institution
in Denver, Colo. Unlike many of my new friends at Regis,
I hailed from a small country home in the mountains of Wyoming
and not from one of the more fashionable areas so prevalent
in Southeast Denver. It was the Saturday of the annual school
clean-up where parents, students and Jesuits teamed up to
spruce up campus grounds. Paying painfully little attention
to the fact that my parents had just driven all the way from
Wyoming to be with me and help my school, I was instead a
bit taken aback and perhaps even embarrassed as I caught
sight of my parents approaching in their old jeans and beat-up
work shoes. Imagine, as I stood amidst this sea of new friends
and their parents dressed in Nike's latest and greatest,
here come my simple parents. Fulfilling my designation as
a sophomore to a "T," I put my chagrin into words as I asked
my mother, "what can you guys do here?"
Well, before the question had cleared my lips, my mother
grasped me by the arm and announced that we were to have
a little conversation on the grassy incline nearby. My father
immediately took cover. He had seen this look before! Now
my mother is one of the kindest and most loving women I know.
However, growing up poor on a farm in the Nebraska Sandhills
also gave her a unique character. Translation: it made her
tougher than nails. Thus, it is no surprise that the three
essential lessons spoken by my mother that day remain crystal
Now we've assembled on the side of this Hill, Mount St. James.
As we venture into the world, let us never forget where we
come from . from our precious families whose steadfast love,
encouragement and support have brought us to this
very moment . from this place, this College on the Hill, where we have learned
so much and grown together these past four years . from our Creator, the sustainer
of human life who made it possible for us to rise out of bed full of life this
very morning. Let us never forget that there are many whose sacrifices made this
journey possible. Hold close memories of teachers, coaches and friends whose
time and talents were freely given to better our lives. Let us be grateful and,
in doing so, discover the
joy and freedom that attend gratitude so closely.
- Don't ever forget where you come from.
- You did not get here on your own. Many have been the
sacrifices to help you on your journey.
- Be grateful.
You see, my friends, both abundance and want live side by side in each of
us, parallel realities. It is our free decision which of these inner fallow
fields we will cultivate. When we sway our care from what is missing in our
lives and taste true gratitude for the wealth of gifts present in our midst,
we become different people. When we live with gratitude towards God and each
other, our time, our talents and our love no longer belong to us in some nominal
sense of ownership. Instead, all that is contained in our existence is experienced
as gift. Charity is transformed from "dutiful largess" to a generous and free
sharing of gifts out of a deep sense of gratitude. In fact, when we become
truly grateful, we are irresistibly drawn to share the unique, awesome gifts
that constitute our very lives. It is this understanding of gratitude that
underlies Luke's gospel passage, "To whom much has been given, much is expected." It
is also this understanding of gratitude that weaves the fabric of our Jesuit
tradition and defines what it really means to become "men and women for others." Make
no mistake, today is a celebration of our efforts, of the hard work we have
all exerted in the past four years. Just as importantly, though, it is a celebration
of gratitude for our gifts, gifts that made this occasion of thanksgiving possible.
A timeless Roman orator, Cicero by name, once declared, "Gratitude is not
only the greatest of the virtues, but the parent of all others." These words
express something special. It seems to me that in our society, we can often
ease into an economic or existentialist mindset that tells us "you receive
and are measured according to what you produce..you and your autonomy alone
are responsible for who and what you become." This individualistic rhetoric
works quite well in the economic realm. We can set wages equal to productivity
and voilá, a labor market is born. Yet, regardless of how effective
such a system of individualism and complete self-reliance first appears, in
many essential quarters of our life it is simply not enough. Taken to extremes,
this type of thinking leaves no room for thankfulness, no space for a sense
of giftedness in our lives. Without this sense of gratitude, we are never free
to share our gifts with others and, I'm afraid, unable to find fulfillment
in our existence.
To live lives permeated by gratitude does not mean forsaking personal effort,
nor does it mean rejecting wonderful celebrations of personal human accomplishment
as we do today. On the contrary, genuine gratitude allows us to recognize and
respond more enduringly, more graciously, more efficaciously, and more creatively
to the world around us. I am reminded of an inspiring prayer used by Fr. Ford
on the Spiritual Exercises. "For all that has been, thanks, for all that is
to come, yes!"
How do we commit ourselves to a life of gratitude? The answer begins today.
In the heart of our splendid celebration, take some time and think about all
the ways you have been gifted in coming to Holy Cross, think of the sacrifices
your family has made since you first started school, think of the relationships
that have been gifts in your life. Say thank you. But don't stop there. Take
five minutes each and every day you go forth as a human being on this earth,
in the midst of trials and tribulations, in the midst of jubilation and accomplishment,
to examine how you have been gifted. Bear in mind the beautiful gifts of your
Holy Cross education, your family, and one another. Learn to live with hearts
and hands of thanksgiving.
I would like to end with a quote by Johannes Gaertner. "To speak gratitude
is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to
live gratitude is to touch heaven."
My hope and sincere desire for each of you today, as you are sent forth past
the gates of our beloved College on the Hill, is that you may always savor
and relish the wonderful gifts you have been given, and, by cultivating gratitude,
that deep sense of thanksgiving, may you be free to share your gifts each day
in generous gratitude with all those around you. Through freely giving to others
all that you have been given, my friends, may each of you touch heaven. Thank
you all for being such meaningful gifts in my life.