Archive for Saturday, May 21, 2011

Faith Forum: What advice would you give graduates on starting their new lives?

May 21, 2011


Rabbi Zalman Tiechtel, Chabad Jewish Center, 1203 W. 19th St.:

Congratulations! Here is my message to you, our dear graduates, derived from the making of ... a pot of stew!

The first step is to fill the crock pot to the brim with potatoes. Now that the pot seems full, pour in a bag of beans and watch how they manage to slip right between the spaces. Add a bag of barley, and observe how the small kernels meander effortlessly between the cracks and crevices. Schlep out your collection of spices and add salt, pepper and paprika. See how the spices easily settle into what had seemed to be a completely full pot. Finally, pour a jug of water into the pot. Surprise, it all fit without a drop spilling.

Now turn on the heat. You just filled the pot with the most important ingredient of all — warmth. Without it, the pot may as well be empty.

Dear graduates, you are about to move on to the big world where you will no longer have the luxury of studying all day. Soon you will be consumed by the pressures of making a living. Remember, your material pursuits are just the potatoes and beans of life. Your spirituality is the warmth. Until the fire is turned on, the pot is full of disparate ingredients. It is the warmth that unites them all into a stew.

If you don’t maintain a spiritual connection and keep focused on the true meaning of your lives, then you will end up as a cold stew — very busy, very full, but completely empty.

A spiritual connection imbues your entire life with meaning, keeps you anchored and directed, inspired and motivated. It permeates all you do with a sense of purpose, and makes you succeed.

And never think that adding spirituality to your schedule will overburden you. On the contrary, it will bring everything else in your life together, reminding you why you do all these other things in the first place. Spirituality is the warmth that does not take up space, it creates more.

Never think that you are so busy that you can’t afford to concentrate on your soul. The truth is, you can’t afford not to.

— Send e-mail to Zalman Tiechtel at

The Rev. Valerie Miller-Coleman, executive director, Family Promise of Lawrence:

Graduation is one of life’s most important turning points. This is a time when people start asking you, and you may ask yourself, some really big questions about who you want to become. What kind of work would you like to do? What kind of further education will you achieve? Where will you live? As you begin answering these questions and setting the course for the rest of your life, give some consideration to the standards you choose to measure yourself.

Television, online media, magazines and movies show us a world of bright young people wearing beautiful clothes, driving expensive cars and dating incredibly attractive people. Acne doesn’t seem to exist in this parallel universe. Ironic comments and crass jokes yield chortles from the canned laugh track. Everyone’s pants fit.

From an early age we learn to set the standard for our lifestyle, personal relationships and many of our values based on this oddly perfect version of reality. The fact that our own pants don’t fit as well as we’d like and that our relationships are complicated can make us really dissatisfied sometimes — especially when we compare ourselves with the people living in that perfect parallel universe on the screen in front us.

So forget about them for a minute. Take a moment to ask yourself what you value. What kind of relationships do you want in your life? What do you believe in? These aren’t questions that can be answered once. Keep asking them and be very careful if anyone offers you an easy answer — like a really highly paid job or a gorgeous boyfriend — because easy answers don’t last. The important questions about who you really are and what you really want for your life will come back again and again.

— Send email to Valerie Miller-Coleman at


WHY 7 years, 1 month ago

You have spent an enormous amount of time becoming educated about the world. Now please stop all that thinking and come back to the weekly mythology convention, where logic and reason can be replaced with warmth and unfounded beliefs.

FloridaSunshine 7 years, 1 month ago

Rabbi Tiechtel...

How I enjoyed your analogy! Your last four powerful (albeit brief) paragraphs contain sage advice for anyone...whether college graduate, high school graduate, or non-student. It is indeed my "spiritual connection" which keeps me "anchored, directed, inspired, and motivated"...

I know what it's like to have a life that is "very busy, very full, but completely empty". Thank you for these words of wisdom. I hope every graduate has the blessing of reading what you so graciously gifted to them. I thank you because your words reminded me of the person I used to be so many years ago..."cold stew" opposed to an ongoing, and growing, spiritual being who spends time each day concentrating on the state of my soul. I dare not get so busy that I neglect to rekindle the embers...with all that goes on in our lives, it would be SO easy to let that fire of spirituality be neglected and die out. It's definitely a never-ending adventure and I love it!! Thank you, Rabbi.

FloridaSunshine 7 years, 1 month ago

Reverend Miller-Coleman...

Thank you for reminding us that "easy answers don't last"...

There is a mind-set these days exactly as you describe..."everyone's pants fit"...gotta love that expression because it is so true...that's what is being portrayed to all of us!! My hope and prayer for young graduates today is they will learn early on the difference between that "parallel universe" and reality. They have been bombarded by the media that their pants SHOULD fit perfectly...on their perfect bodies. Hopefully, they have come to know, or will come to know very soon, what is "real" has everything to do with the person they are spiritually and their inner voice, that little nudge deep inside, will carry them through long after their pants aren't fitting so well any longer. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Reverend.

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