I met Debbie in college English. We had at least a dozen books to read and twice as many papers to write, and she somehow kept a great attitude about it all. She’d traveled to college from her sunny home state of California, and even the Pacific Northwest rainfall couldn’t defeat her smile. Ever.
We only shared the one class, but we ended up sharing the next couple years talking about life and where the future would take us. She had her own car, which made life so much easier for me without one. We did our grocery shopping together, and at her insistence we’d would go to fancy dress shops—just to try on clothes we never could afford.
At this point in history there were no selfies, because there were no cell phones. But I have her goofy smile forever tagged in my mind.
She always liked to say that she wanted to make her yesterday jealous because of the fun she was having today.
It was on one of our fancy dress-shopping trips that she told me about her dad.
She’d been a high school senior about ready to graduate. They had a small family barbecue in the shady side of their back yard. Her dad was just about to share one of his hilarious stories when he suddenly stopped. He’d died of a stroke before he uttered a word.
That would have silenced my joyfulness—and it did for her too. Until she found the letter he’d written for her upcoming graduation. Even though she might feel alone, she wouldn’t be, because Jesus was with her all the time. He’d told her to keep her smile shining—it would always be her best friend. He said that it was easy to find grumblers, but not as easy to find encouragers—be the right one.
He told her that wherever she went in life to leave it a better place afterwards.
And last, make each day as happy as it can it can be.
I was humbled by Debbie’s joy in the aftermath of her loss. She prevailed in spite of it.
Debbie returned to California before she had the chance to graduate. But she did what her dad had suggested—she left it a better place by giving away two years of smiles, encouragement, and showing me how to make yesterday jealous for the fun we had today.
My message for graduating seniors:
Covid-19 has taken away your well-deserved senior highlights. It’s been a true loss. But it didn’t take your future. Even though God doesn’t allow us to see that future, he gives us the gifts to create one. What are your gifts? You’ll be remembered for what you went through this year, but you can also be remembered for how you used your gifts to prevail.
“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” Maya Angelou
Karen Farris saw the need to help underserved kids while serving in a youth ministry that gave her the opportunity to visit rural schools on the Olympic Peninsula. She now volunteers her time grant writing to bring resources to kids in need. She also shares stories of faith in action for those needing a dose of hope on her weekly blog, Friday Tidings.www.fridaytidings.com