While waiting in the car for my 19-year-old daughter to get out of work, I was trying hard to entertain her 17-month-old brother. Not finding many toys in the car, I gave him my purse, which he dug into as if it were a toy box. After ransacking the entire thing, he discovered a $20 bill. Having no concept of money, he had a grand time just folding and unfolding the bill and trying to stuff it in a coin drawer in the dashboard. I let him play with it for a while, before deciding that 20 bucks really wasn’t a kid’s toy.
Of course you can’t just take something from a 17-month-old without causing a waterfall of crocodile tears, so I fished around my purse and came up with an empty, plastic Easter egg to trade. Feigning the sound of awe, I held the egg out to him. Persuaded in a nanosecond, he chucked the $20 bill onto the floor and grabbed the plastic egg with both hands. Reassembling my purse, I chuckled at his behavior and at how differently his teenage sister would have responded to the same presentation of objects, especially after a very long day’s work.
I offer this anecdote, along with my most heartfelt congratulations, to all graduates who will soon be taking a giant step toward independence by leaving the nest. What an exciting time in life! As you go forward, please, know that you are in my prayers. Be assured that wherever you are headed, God is already there. Be confident that God loves you beyond anything you can imagine. Know that he has new friends for you, a fulfilling life, and most of all, a work for him that only you can accomplish.
The truth is that God is counting on you to bring his love to wherever you are going, so as you leave your family, don’t make the mistake my toddler did and chuck your incalculably valuable Catholic faith in favor of the countless “plastic eggs” that will be held out to you with feigned awe. These plastic eggs may take the form of negative things like drugs, drunkenness, or immoral sexual activity, but I know you’ve encountered these counterfeits already and haven’t been fooled. These plastic eggs may take the form of positive things like scholarships, increased knowledge, money, and positions of power. These substitutes for God may be harder to recognize, but don’t be duped by anything or anyone that tries to unseat your faith. Remember, all that glitters is not gold.
There is another insight to be had from my toddler’s behavior versus my teenager’s. The toddler and I were bored stiff, doing anything we could to amuse ourselves, while my teenager was thoroughly engaged in productive work. My toddler, of course, can’t be faulted for being at the mercy of other’s schedules or being unaware of the comparative value of things, but you are not like him. Don’t dilly-dally around waiting for someone or something to amuse you. Get straight to work finding an excellent Catholic parish and developing solid Catholic friends. Roll up your sleeves and participate in the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
God has given us such an exciting and beautiful world. Glory in it! Instead of chucking your loving Father in heaven and all the goodness he has in store for you, shock the socks off your new friends or co-workers and hold fast to your faith with two hands. Shock the socks off your parents and teachers by pursuing the faith they taught you with more zeal than ever. Be a witness to the fact that independent living only equals rebellious, ungodly behavior for those who are not confident in themselves and God’s love for them, and that is not you. I promise, if you do these things, God will shock your own socks off with an energizing sense of purpose in life that you’ve never known before.
God’s love is not like a plastic egg; cheap, hollow, and disposable. God’s love is the golden egg of life; precious, solid, and everlasting. If, perhaps, you don’t believe me, then my toddler has a great trade for you.