When I was asked to give some words of encouragement to the Seniors and the youth of KUC, I thought long and hard. I reflected on my time here as a youth of Kenilworth Union Church, and then I thought a lot about my life beyond the North Shore. I was told by a dear friend of mine to speak from the heart. So that is what I intend to do, speak from the heart and tell you all the important things that I think are the key ingredients to a happy life.
Life after New Trier sent me in many directions. College, the Army, Corporate America and back. And all the while I knew I would be okay, because I had this amazing base. This amazing community and congregation that, whether I was gone for a year or much longer, KUC was always here when I got back. I spent years looking for what I knew was always right where I left it. A place to call home. We are so fortunate to have this touchstone in our lives. This safe haven where one can be comfortable, grounded and secure – a place where we take care of one another, because that’s what family does. Kenilworth Union Church is that.
Growing up in the KUC family, I was involved in the youth group programs, and when I was graduating from New Trier I found myself in the same place that you are today. I found myself here on Youth Sunday with a good solid base beneath my feet and about to embark on a new chapter in my life. Going off to college and taking my first official step into the “real” world. Back then I thought I was so wise beyond my years. I thought I had it all under control and all figured out. But in reality – I had so much to learn.
So today I come before you with my so-called words of wisdom that I have learned over the years – they are not hard to figure out and actually are quite simple.
Leaving KUC and the North Shore and making your way to either a new job or college, I know that you will find yourselves on a path already taken by others, but at the same time a path completely different and new to you. This is possibly the most exciting time of your life. A new chapter where you are for the first time going to be out on your own as an adult.
And to you, I say welcome it!! Welcome this new chapter with open arms and embrace the challenge. Embrace the challenge of figuring out life and all the lessons it has to teach you, because believe me – there are many and they are all for the better or for the worse worth learning. Take a class that you think is going to be really tough. Join a sorority or fraternity because you feel it’s the right place for you and not because all of your friends are joining it. Honor your commitments. Don’t be a Dorm Rat. Get out there, do things. Experience a new restaurant, a new art exhibit, whatever it may be. Don’t let life and all the opportunities presented to you pass you by. Choose a path that has yet to be
traveled and know all the while that in the end, regardless of how bumpy the path may or may not be, you might have a good story to tell, but will definitely be a better person for having walked the walk.
Life is about living it and learning from it all that you possibly can learn. Make mistakes, try to correct them if you can, but more importantly learn from them. Fight the fights, but learn which battles will win the war and focus your energy on those.
Embrace your friends. Both your friends from your youth, but also your friends you are making in the present and don’t forget to continuously weed out that friendship garden along the way. Getting rid of the rubbish and keeping those that are worthy of being called a true friend will only help you and your friendship garden bloom.
Be true to yourself, because a true friend will cherish you as you are – silly or serious. They will find the humor in both.
Be kind. Remember that those who say hurtful things are more often discontent with their own lives and not yours. With that being said, kill with kindness. It is a true saying that it is easier to catch more bees with honey than with vinegar. Lend a sympathetic ear and put a smile on your face – even over the phone a smile in your voice can solve the smallest of problems. And in the end, if all else fails, no need to get ugly, because the best revenge in life is truly loving yourself and living a happy life.
When it comes to your family – they are the ones who know you. They’ve seen it all when it comes to you – the good, the bad, the ugly. Love them. Unconditionally love them for who they are, who they are NOT and who they will always be. And know that when your folks are nagging at you – it truly is out of pure love. They nag because they love you and because they know you and they do, believe it or not, know and understand you better than you think they do.
And when you come back to the North Shore whether it is on break or to live, or whatever community you find yourself in for that matter, give back to that community. Support the organizations that have impacted your life and have helped you become the person you are and will be.
And know that throughout this journey called life – know that if you ever lose your way or just need a piece of home, we are here waiting for you with open arms. KUC is the touchstone for you to come to for comfort and a place to gain strength. The extended family that will welcome you at the end of a well traveled path.
To you, the youth of today, the leaders of our tomorrow. Blaze the trails before you and establish your worth. Have faith in God and know that your trust in the Lord and your KUC family will never fail you.