As the first day of school approaches, these are the words I give you.
May you have a heart of gratitude. When each class ends, I hope that you say thank you - to the teacher that encouraged you, the student that made you think, the volunteer that passed out the paper plates. I hope that you know deep down in your heart what a tremendous privilege it is to go to school - with light switches and seats, with books and pencils, paper and dry erase boards. May you whisper thanks when you hold a book between your hands and when you feel the weight of the backpack on your shoulders.
May you dance to your own music, paint your own patterns, march your own rhythm. When you pick up the pastels in art class, I hope you let your boundless creativity lead you. May you stomp out those voices that tell you your idea is inferior. May you have the courage to be different, to take risks, and to make mistakes.
May you always stand up for what's right - even when the pressure is intense. Know this and let it seep into your skin - what is popular is not often best. Don't be afraid to take the road less traveled. If you are afraid, if your knees knock and your heart beats wild, that's okay too. To be brave is to know fear and to do the right thing anyway.
May you not fret over the colors of shirts, the bling on backpacks, the newness of shoes. Choose now to be content, to see through materialism to what matters more. New things glitter and gleam, but the sparkle of stuff fades quickly. Be intentional about having less so that you can give more.
May you choose kindness. Remember that compassion is strength, love is leadership. When you see the lonely child on the playground or at the lunch table, I pray that you will extend a smile and a hand. Little glowing fireflies of mercy and goodness.
May you find friendships that stir your soul, that sharpen your character. I pray that you will find one girl, maybe two or three, who will sing to your soul. I pray that there will be friends who will uplift you and love you for who you are right where you are - but always give you the grace to grow. I pray that these friends will make you laugh and let you cry. I also pray that you will know when to walk quietly away from peers that gossip and betray and waylay.
May you have teachers who inspire you, who engage you, and who point you to Jesus. If you have teachers who don't meet that criteria, I pray that you will accentuate the positive. I pray that you will understand that learning is up to you, that education is what you make of it. I pray that you'll love to read, that you'll pursue math and science and music with cheerful enthusiasm.
May you ask questions - often and without embarrassment. May you dream grand stories as you read literature. May math equations dazzle your mind. I pray that grades won't deter you or distract you. Don't forget that every great invention, every classic novel, every famed piece of artwork - began with a hundred failures and uncertainties. Be persistent in your quest for knowledge.
May you be a shining light in a dark world. Twinkle, twinkle little star. You shine the brightest when you love the strongest.
Finally, May you remember who you are. Beloved. I stamp these words on your heart right now. Repeat after me. I am beautiful. I am strong. I am intelligent. I am a change-maker and world-shaker, dream-believer and life-giver. I am loved far more than I will ever know.
You are all those things and infinitely more. Take your candle, darlings, go light your world.