Friday, May 13, 2005


Here’s my story from my other blog, DailySusan.com, that seems appropriate at this time of year for an education blog, too. A salute to all graduates at every level, and to your parents, spouses, families and friends. Here’s hoping that you hear your fair share of praise this graduation season. Congratulations!



Pleasant words are as an honeycomb,
sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.
— Proverbs 16:24

We’re going halfway across the country to attend our eldest daughter’s college graduation. We’re bringing loads of Kleenex and film. We will wear bikinis and carry umbrellas for a typical May day in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Like a million other mothers at graduation time, the soundtrack in my heart is the song from that old Kodak ad, “Where Are You Going, My Little One?”

And, like all those other moms, I’m wondering if I did my job OK. Did I pack love into every molecule of our daughter’s being, enough to last her through thick and thin?

Can she function in a kitchen, the executive suite, or both? Can she thread a needle, dance the tango and change a tire?

Does she have her feet solidly on the ground, and yet is still reaching for the stars?

Most of all: did I praise her enough to polish her heart ‘til it glows?

Sometimes, we mothers are more critics than coaches and cheerleaders. And that’s too bad.

All children desperately need words of praise from the important people in their lives. That’s how they get the crown of blessing . . . the knowledge that they are somebody special, one in a billion, irreplaceable, irresistible, unique, awesome, amazing and miraculous.

They get a glimpse of how God sees them. And that’s crucial, for a happy life.

My mother did it for me. She used to call me her “joy child.” Wow! I felt important! My siblings might have been smarter and funnier and better-looking. But I was the one who gave my mother joy.

Ever since, I’ve tried to live up to that billing, and give people joy. I don’t always make it. But I try.

It’s funny how my mom tagged me, so young. Or maybe her words created that desire in me – the spark of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

All I know is, you can provide a turning point for someone else’s whole life with just one comment. And it doesn’t cost a thing. That’s God’s economics: a little goes a long, long way.

The praise can be from strangers, too: when Jordan was two days old, my milk hadn’t come in yet at the hospital. They could give her only sugar water while we waited.

She was frantically hungry and crying nonstop in the nursery, waking the other newborns. The nurses brought her to me every hour, hoping milk production would begin so she’d eat, and quiet down, before they lost their minds or their hearing, not necessarily in that order.

Consequently, I had gotten little sleep for 48 hours. My anxiety was building moment by moment. In the middle of that long, terrible night, one nurse carried Jordan, still screaming, out of my room, crooning melodramatically, “Oh, you poor little thing. You’re so hungry! So hollow!”

I burst into tears. I was a complete failure as a mother. Better put her up for adoption. Maybe she can have a decent life with someone who’s competent.

But an hour later, a different nurse brought her in. There was still no milk, but this nurse was patient and smiling. On the way out, she looked at the baby’s nametag, and exclaimed with a voice full of sincerity and awe:

“Jordan Williams! That sounds like an AUTHOR!”

An author? Gee! What a compliment! The nurse couldn’t have known that I worked as a news reporter, and considered authors a cut above, worthy of high praise and admiration.

It made me feel sooooooo good. I relaxed. I slept. Next morning, Dairy Queen opened for business.

Now fast-forward 21 years. Jordan Williams is graduating Phi Beta Kappa as an English major, and her honors thesis on poet Edmund Spenser was named the No. 1 best undergraduate thesis this year.

That sounds like an AUTHOR, all right!

She lived up to her billing!

But what do you expect? It’s in her blood. She’s a joy child, born and bred.

Happy graduation, Jordan . . . and all you other graduates. You’re great! You’re wonderful! God loves you! Now, get out there and spread some joy!

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