Our very own Stephanie Pollaro was honored as the 2011 commencement speaker at Golden West College last Thursday on May 26. Golden West College is where Stephanie and the rest of her siblings started their higher education pursuits, as such, the campus is a place of special memories for her. This point in time, our state and our world is calling for people and corporations to use their success to help causes that are close to their hearts. Throughout her speech to the graduating class, Stephanie instilled the important fact that graduates have the power, the potential, and the opportunity to use their knowledge and expertise and apply it in conjunction with their passion. In doing so, freshly minted graduates have the unique position and opportunity to make this world a better place for everyone. Success is not measured solely on the amount of dollars earned, rather, it can be viewed in the amount of lives touched and the amount of “seeds” planted into the hearts and souls of those individuals who need it the most. Below are six important lessons Stephanie has compiled based upon her time living in India that every graduate should know:
1. Be Flexible.
Make room for one more; whatever it may be: An unexpected dinner guest or passengers in a car or elevator. Go with the flow; an office may be randomly closed when you get there for an appointment, throwing your whole schedule off, but life has a funny way of using that change in your day if you embrace the unexpected. Besides, what choice do you have? Life will change directions in an instant and you can either hold your ground with clenched teeth and a bitter attitude or you can go with the flow and enjoy the ride and see what life story will come from it.
2. No time is wasted-it just depends on how you choose to use it.
Though I learned this lesson early on during my time in India, it is best exemplified by the women I see every day in the train.
After everyone pushes violently to get in and finally locates a fragment of personal space, the ladies begin to use their hour of commute time wisely. You can see Muslims, Hindus, and Catholics, saying prayers, memorizing scriptures, or writing out mantras. Many ladies use the time to cut up veggies for dinner so that the prep is done and they can immediately start cooking when they arrive at home. Others catch up with the obligatory phone calls to friends and family while students listen to music and study for upcoming exams. Every minute counts; and these women remind me of that every day.
Remember, time is precious and depending on how you use it, you can accomplish much.
3. Live life a little closer to the edge.
I learned this lesson the first time I rode sidesaddle on a motorcycle through a crowded Indian street. Here in the States we live life so carefully, so structured and insolated that I think we forget how precious and fragile life is. This is my realization every time I’m on a bike in India. But this realization does something to me—it helps me to appreciate the small things, not to take myself so seriously, and to have fun. Do something to remind yourself of your fragility and get your breath taken away by the awe inspiring power of that revelation.
4. Always make time for tea.
At least twice a day, Indians will sit peacefully, almost as if ascending to a higher state of consciousness, to take a moment to enjoy their thimble size cup of tea. Now you may be asking yourself, “Is her advice to drink tea daily?” And I’d say, “If you enjoy it the way the Indians do, than my answer is a resounding yes!” If not tea, find something that you enjoy and decompress in it each day. It will give you something to look forward to and can make you a happier person.
5. Don’t be wasteful!
Americans like to throw words around like recycle, carbon footprint, and renewable resources, but how often do we look at our own personal use of materials and waste that comes from our personal consumption? I know often times India is considered to be a dirty place. It is, and I could go on forever about the government and corporations’ roles in this, but when you look at India’s individuals, they create such little waste. The garbage that is created by an entire household (approx. 5-6 people) over an entire week, could fit into a single bucket. How much garbage does your family produce in a week? The answer lies in the size of your trash cans! If you want to see change in the world and in the environment, first take a look at yourself. Change requires personal reflection and sacrifice and if you aren’t willing to do that, how can we expect it from others?
6. And final point: Plant “seeds.”
There is so much prep required when growing rice–working the soil, gathering the seedlings, washing the roots, and tying and planting them. It is such an investment of time and energy and at the end, all you can do is hope and pray that the seedlings grow and produce fruit. A lot of what I do at iSanctuary is like planting rice. We invest in the lives of women who have been abused and abandoned. And it’s not easy helping them to believe that the dry, parched ground of their life can once again become a lush, verdant field full of opportunity and hope. There is nothing more rewarding and worthwhile in life than investing in the lives of others.
Plant “seeds” in others lives, and watch your positive influence grow and flourish in others and yourself.
Congratulations to all the graduates from the class of 2011!
“Be the change you want to see”- Mahatma Ghandi