My mom was a collector of priceless memorabilia.
What that means is that she gathered, organized, and saved anything produced by her children. And what that means is that I am even now finding little packets and envelopes filled with mementos of my past.
This week, I stumbled on a manilla envelope filled with neatly-stacked copies of The Eastern Eagle, the high school newspaper I helped with in 1974 and 1975. During my junior year in high school, I was a feature writer. As a senior, I was editor-in-chief. (I know, pretty impressive!)
And before you make light of a high school newspaper, this was some pretty serious journalism. We had a passionate faculty sponsor (Mary Jane Mullaney) who demanded excellence. We sent staff members to conferences and workshops around the country. We entered competitions where student newspapers were evaluated and critiqued.
This was long before the days of personal computers, so we would actually prepare our stories on typewriters, do cut and paste lay-outs of every page, and then take that product to the General Printing Company in downtown Louisville (1700 S. Fifth Street). There, professional printers would prepare the type for each page, and then literally run the paper off copy by copy on a printing press. (Yes, I am older than I look!) For a student newspaper, it was impressive. Each year, we won national awards.
I'm looking through the papers this week, reading some of my editorials. (Don't be too critical; I was seventeen years old!) Here's one entitled "Pressure Plagues Students." (Who knew?) Another one entitled "Waste Mars Christmas." (Evidently, that was a problem even in 1974.) And then my favorite one about the courage of President Gerald Ford (who had recently become president after the resignation of Richard Nixon).
What strikes me about my seventeen-year-old writing is how sure I was.
What strikes me is how sure I was . . . about everything.
When I was seventeen, I had just about everything figured out. When I was seventeen, I had all the answers.
Today? Not so much.
Today, I am less sure about a lot of things. Today, I am less dogmatic than I was when I was seventeen. And I am hoping that's a mark of maturity.
When I wrote about President Ford's courage, I said this:
Obviously, the actions mentioned above called for courage
to stand up and dare to be different.
But President Ford owns another kind of courage.
This additional virtue is the courage to listen.
Sometimes, listening calls for more fortitude than speaking out.
In his first week in office, President Ford had met with over two hundred federal officials to ask for their help. He asked them what they thought he should do. Even as a seventeen-year-old, I saw the wisdom in that.
Writing to the Christians in Corinth, the Apostle Paul said this:
When I was a child, I talked like a child,
I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.
When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.
(1 Corinthians 13:11)
All kinds of things should happen to us as we grow up. But if we are not more humble, less dogmatic, more willing to listen to others . . . then we have not really grown up at all.
If we are not humble, if we are dogmatic, if we will not listen . . . then we are just big children.
Though it would have been a surprise to me at the time, I did not know everything when I was seventeen.
And I am fully aware of this: I do not know everything today.
But I do know that I have every reason to be humble.
I know that my dogmatism will only hurt other people.
I know how crucial it is to listen.
Oh, that we all might grow up!